John Van Vorst

Shoulder School: The T-Spine Edition R aise your hand if you’ve had shoulder pain. If you’re experi- encing pain right now, skip the arm raise and go find a clini- cian. Shoulder injuries in law enforcement personnel are common, but one of the keys to keeping your shoulders happy and healthy is a mobile mid-back or thoracic spine (t-spine, for short). When you lose mobility through the t-spine, stress can be magnified at the shoulder joint or movement compensations can occur eventually leading to injury and pain. This article will provide you a quick assessment of t-spine mobility and some simple techniques to restore proper ranges of motion. Mobility is a day-to-day operation, so this is one case where more frequency is better. Do the work! SHOULDER LIFT OFF TEST (Figures 1 & 2) How: Lie face down with arms straight and grasp PVC or dowel at shoulder width (Figure 1) . Keep your chin forward and in contact with ground. Raise your straight arms slowly to your best height, keeping the chin down. Measure the distance from the under- side of the wrist (Figure 2) . Ideally, you’ll have at least 6 inches (15 centimeters) of clearance under the wrist. If you don’t, you’re not alone so keep reading.

you can-in an attempt to touch the floor. The movement is very similar to the wall slides. Spend a few repetitions on each t-spine segment, and work up the chain. Don’t allow your butt to come off the floor and try to keep your ribs from flaring out. Brace your tummy tight and try to lay those thumbs back towards the floor SIDE LYING OPEN BOOK STRETCH (Figure 5) How: Begin on your side, then bring the top leg up towards your waist and lay it on the floor using the opposite arm to hold it in place. With the arm closer to the ceiling alternate between reaching in front of you and reaching back towards the floor. Perform slowly and attempt to reach as far back as you can towards

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Figure 5

the floor. Inhale as you reach in front and exhale as you rotate back. While laying on my right side shown in Figure 5, I am work- ing on my left rotation. QUADRUPED OPEN BOOK STRETCH (Figure 6) How: Begin with hands on the floor under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Find neutral posture and rock your hips slightly back towards your heels. Cup your ear with one hand and alternate between placing the elbow under the opposite armpit and rotating the elbow up towards the sky.

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Figure 2

SUPINE 90/90 ARM SLIDES (Figure 3) How: Begin on your back with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. If you have access to a foam roller, squeeze it between your feet and knees to set your posture and main- tain alignment. Now flatten your lower back towards the floor. Place your arms out to the side at 90 degrees and let

Figure 3

gravity pull the backs of your hands down. Then slide your arms overhead along the floor and return to the starting position. If you can’t lay your hands flat on the floor, just work within the range of motion you own and reach back at the wrist with your fingertips. You should feel the muscles around your shoulder blades working and serious stretch in the middle of your back. T-SPINE FOAM ROLL ARM SLIDES (Figure 4) How: Place the foam roller perpendicular to your spine onto a segment which you want to work on (anything between your lower back and your neck). Now elevate your arms as far back as

Figure 6

Figure 7

HALF KNEELING AROUND THE WORLD STRETCH (Figure 7) How: In half kneeling with a foam roller placed between the wall and your inside leg, place both hands behind your head. Rotate all the way around and come back, trying to keep the elbow away from the wall. Avoid side-bending the opposite direction, as this is a compensation. Use a basketball or something larger between your knee and the wall if necessary.

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