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How To Stretch Shoulder Blades & Upper Back For Pain Relief.

body insights Mar 24, 2020

A few years ago, I noticed a sharp pain on the inside of my right shoulder blade.

The pain would usually start while sitting at the computer or while driving, and would persist for days. The only way to get it to stop was a lucky good night of sleep or rolling around on tennis balls. And when I finally found relief, it would be back two days later for another round of the game. Most days my upper back was in near constant pain. I was confused and didn't know what to do.

One day it dawned on me that if I wanted my shoulder blades and upper back to feel better, I needed to be moving them more often throughout the day. And not just move them any which way, but move them in the ways they are designed to move.

I'm happy to say it's been getting better over the past several years. It's not completely gone, but it's much more manageable. It's less intense, lasts for shorter periods of time, and happens less frequently. All in all, I probably have 30 minutes a week of shoulder pain, and it's getting better and better over time.

Shoulders are amazing because they're so multifaceted. We have the upper arm bone, which is usually what I imagine when someone uses the word shoulder. The upper arm has a broad circular range of motion--more than most other joints in the body. It plugs into a shallow socket on the side of the shoulder blade, an iceberg that floats atop the ribs in the upper back. The shoulder blades are designed to move in sync with the arm bones, while the arm bone draws into its socket. When the arm bone and shoulder blade have this relationship with each other, our shoulders work well and they feel good.

But our shoulders won't know how to do this unless we train them to. Luckily, there are some simple things we can do when our shoulders are in pain, or when we sense that we need a posture reset.

One simple thing we can do is get the shoulder blades moving on the back. The time we spend sitting and typing, driving, texting, etc. often positions the shoulders such that the upper back muscles get sleepy, and they forget how to move the shoulder blades. This will remind the upper back muscles what their jobs are, which is a great step towards better-feeling shoulders.

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