How We Screen Functional Movement (Series):Shoulder Mobility

How We Screen Functional Movement (Series): Shoulder Mobility

Welcome Back!

Last week we kicked off our series, “How We Screen Functional Movement” with taking a closer look at the Active Straight Leg Raise; which looks mobility of the hip and stability of the core. Be sure to check it out if you haven’t read it yet!

Today we will Discuss:

  • The Importance of the Shoulder Mobility Screen
  • How Scapula Stability plays a role in Shoulder Mobility
  • The Results of Shoulder Pain

How Scapula Stability Creates Mobility

Last week we looked at how hips need a strong foundation which is provided by stability in the low back and pelvis (core stability) in order to move well. This week are looking at the Shoulder Mobility screen. Mobility and Stability play a similar role in ensuring the shoulders move well. The foundation of stability for proper shoulder movement occurs at the shoulder blades (scapula). Think of the shoulder blades as the core for our shoulders and good upper body mobility. Proper shoulder mobility is a requirement for many daily activities including anything involving reaching overhead (getting items out of an overhead cabinet, washing our hair, getting dressed, lifting anything to a higher height) along with reaching, pushing, pulling, lifting and carrying (carrying groceries, trash, etc.).  

Shoulder mobility is vital for any sports or activities that require a throwing motion. Our shoulders, just like our hips are a multiplanar joint (can move forward, back, side to side and in a circular motion), which allows for all of the above noted actions performed by proper shoulder function. However, this freedom of movement at the shoulder results in the shoulder itself being a very unstable joint. In other words, more mobility = less stability. As a result, the shoulder blades must provide the stability required for proper mobility at the level of the shoulder joint. It’s a system very similar to what we reviewed in the lower extremity last week with our Active Straight Leg Raise screen.

The Three Regions of Shoulder Mobility

Another major factor in proper shoulder mobility is mobility of the mid back, known as the thoracic spine (the portion of our spine where our ribs attach). Limitation of movement in the mid back can result in loss of proper scapular stability which can result in loss of movement at the shoulders, coordination of all three of these regions (mobility at the mid back, stability at the shoulder blades, and mobility of the shoulders) is the required for a good score on the Shoulder Mobility screen. Let’s review the screen:

Screening for Mobility & Pain

As shown above, the shoulder mobility screen assesses both shoulders at the same time through full available range of motion with one arm reaching overhead and down the back and the other arm reaching behind and up the back, trying to approximate the distance between your hands as close as possible. The test will be performed with both the right arm overhead (left arm behind) and the left arm overhead (right arm behind). In order to achieve a satisfactory level of shoulder mobility we must have adequate mid back (thoracic spine) mobility, shoulder blade (scapular) stability and shoulder (glenohumeral joint) mobility, which again demonstrates the joint-by-joint approach. As you can see, good shoulder mobility and function requires a relatively complex interplay of our spine, shoulde blade and shoulder joint. This is important to understand as shoulder pain can actually be a result of a loss of proper function in any of these areas, which can place awkward stress on the shoulder joint.

Our shoulders, as explained above, are extremely important to many of our daily activities. Therefore, it is vital to have an understanding of shoulder function prior to designing an exercise program. This pattern should be corrected and reach a satisfactory level prior to performing any exercises that require you to press overhead, pull (pull-ups, chin-ups, etc.) or carry (farmer’s carry, etc.). Exercises such as bench pressing and rowing

What Is Next…?

We hope that our continued discussion of the FMS and the shoulder mobility screen have demonstrated the strong need for a proper fitness screen prior to initiating a training program. For more information on corrective strategies that we utilize in our training programs to help improve the shoulder mobility pattern, continue to follow us on social media (Instagram, Facebook) where we will be posting videos of corrective exercises.

Next week we will be discussing our first stability pattern, Rotary Stability.

Stay Tuned!

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