So for this week’s tip, we will be discussing the concept of shoulder hiking. This may cause many issues, such as not being able to turn your head well or not having a proper range-of-motion in the shoulders. Such issues may also restrict the breathing pattern. Let’s take a deeper look into this issue and see how much we can get our shoulders to come down. We will be talking about this from a symptomatic point of view, not just as a driver of pain. We want to start looking at the body to find out what is happening and what is causing this tightness. I will be teaching you how to bring your shoulders down so you can regain some movement. This will not eliminate pain for the long-term, but it will give you relief and actually give your shoulders some range-of-motion so you can process it into a long-term event. I already talked about a few of these things previously, but I received feedback from people requesting I go into more detail. The tip for this week will serve that purpose.
Shoulder hiking also pairs well with the tip about neck pain that I posted a few weeks back, so take a look at that if you have not. One of the muscles that we will focus on is Levator Scapulae. When your shoulders are lifted high, your Levator Scapulae is at work, being one of the many muscles that make this happen. This muscle brings your shoulders up so when you are stuck in a high position, the levator asks the trap to do some work. This solidifies the lifting motion and keeps it there. Once it’s held, that means the trap is going to start working harder and in turn, it’s going to bring down the electrical tone in one of the key muscles, your lats, which is then going to bring your shoulders down. The lats and the scapulae are the two muscles we will focus on today. So what I’m going to show you is exactly where they are, in which direction they lie, and whether you need to do foam rolling, trigger point work, or stretching. You want to look at these exercises.
The job of the Levator Scapulae is to elevate your scapulae by rolling your shoulder and scapulae up. This can straighten everything out, making you stuck in a tight position.
So we want to start targeting many of the attachment sites near the base of the head, through trigger point work. Doing this throughout the neck as well, will be key for getting the Levator unstuck. When I spoke about neck pain, I went into detail about the twist in the Levator itself, and that will be the key spot.
It runs all the way from the bottom of the head to the tip of the Scapulae. You want to either do some stretching in this area or trigger point work. You can contract your muscles, take a nice deep breath, and let it all drop and relax. That’s a common exercise that people use to alleviate tension and mental stress. I want you guys to focus on the contraction and relaxation aspect of this muscle. You want to contract as hard as you possibly can and then learn how to really let it go as you drop your muscles down. That’s one of the things that will drive your shoulders to go up. We now want to focus on our lat.
The main function of the lat is to bring the scapulae down. It’s also very important you notice how it brings the scapulae down. It’s not just a straight motion, but a rotational motion. This muscle is going to compete with the trap. You want something to compete with the trap but because it is always so tight, it’s naturally going to take down the defenses of the lat muscle. Everyone thinks about contracting muscle tissue, but it just can’t do its work because it’s bound so you want to do some real good foam rolling throughout the lat so it can do its job and compete. Once you get the lat to move better through foam rolling, you can continue with trigger point work. When you get those things to move, your shoulders will drop and you can move without hiking up the shoulders and using the Levator as stabilization for your head and upper body. You want your lat to hold everything down low so your arms can move properly. This will create momentum that will pull you forward. However if you are bound in that area when the shoulders are brought up, everything is harder to move but as soon as they drop, everything turns into a pendulum. When you are tight, you use more energy to move, yet when everything is lose, less energy is required. If you start working with these two muscles simultaneously, then you have a powerful tool to get your shoulders to drop.