Shoulder and Scapular Mobility

People often come to see me as a chiropractor for neck pain. It turns out that for many, the real problem stems from the shoulders, shoulder blades, and upper back every bit as much as it comes from the neck itself.

This post is directed to the patients I have told need to work on shoulder, shoulder blade (aka scapular region), and upper back mobility. The exercises that follow, when done consistently, can go a long way towards improving the way this area of the body moves, which can in turn improve upon neck pain, upper back pain, and shoulder and arm pain. It can even help people who have symptoms down the arm and into the hands, and for those that have been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. I will have discussed why in the office, so I won’t go into that in this post.

NOTE: If you have pain in a specific area of feel like you cannot perform some of these exercises due to tightness, pinching, or restriction, discuss with me on your next visit. We may have to use muscle work and/or manipulation to correct issues that are preventing your body from moving properly.

The first exercise is very basic, yet very effective. It is a great warm-up prior to any of the other exercises. I just picked up this one recently, so it may be unfamiliar to those of you that I’ve worked with in the past. It is called the “tea-cup” exercise and is shown in the video below.

Next we have an exercise that I teach in the office quite often, called scapular wall slides. This is great for working on posture from your core up. As covered in the office, make sure to maintain contact with the wall with your low back, the bottom of your shoulder blades, back of the shoulder, head, back of the elbows, and back of the hands. There are other videos that show this exercise, but in my opinion, this is the only one with the proper form. This guy makes it look easy, but as you know if you’ve done this, it’s not!

These next two exercises are similar, and both can be very difficult to perform correctly. For some people it takes quite a bit of practice before they can do it like the guy in these videos. The key is keeping the elbows locked out and moving the body, not the shoulders or arms. This is a great exercise to both improve the strength of the scapular stabilizers while helping with mobility. You should feel some of the muscles burn a little after you do 15-20 repetitions.

NOTE: The exercise below can also be performed on all fours vs. the legs being straight.

The next few exercises are aimed more at thoracic or upper back mobility vs. the shoulder and shoulder.

NOTE:The exercise below can also be done standing.

This next exercise is great if you have a foam roller. She makes it look easy, but for most people (myself included), it can be a killer. Start with a half round if the full round is too much.

This next exercise uses a kettle bell, but you can probably use a plate or dumbbell as well.

And last but not least, Pavel here is going to show you a great exercise using a kettle bell to help stretch this area to the max. You can also use a dumbbell to do the same thing. Start with a very light weight or no weight until you learn the correct motion. This is my second favorite exercise next to the scapular wall slide.

Thanks for checking out this post. These exercises/stretches work very well when performed on a regular basis. Along with muscle work and manipulation in the office, these can help normalize your posture and body mechanics. Just be aware that as you make (good) changes to your body, you will be sore. If you have any concerns or any pain that seems excessive, stop the exercises and bring this to my attention during your next appointment.


Buddy Touchinsky, D.C.
Chiropractor, Orwigsburg, Schuylkill County

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