Today we’re going to look at an excellent exercise for improving shoulder function and decreasing shoulder pain.
In the health and fitness world when it comes to shoulders, everyone loves to talk about deltoids, especially the gym bros with there 5000 rep shoulder routine described only as obliteration.
Deltoids are this hopefully cannonball sized muscle you have in the top of your shoulder. One of the things we often find is that deltoids are not functioning well because the nerve signaling to that muscle or muscle group has been compromised.
In most of my courses, which focuses more on rehabilitation of issues, we teach drills that are called neuromechanic drills. Neuromechanic drills are basically exercises that allow us to take certain nerves and out them under tension and floss them through the tissue because nerves are very sensitive to pressure. If something is causing pressure or entrapping them, it can disrupt muscle function and basically the synchronous activation of muscles, whichever muscles and nerves intermix.
This particular exercise is for a nerve called the axillary nerve. The axillary nerve innervates or supplies your deltoid muscles. Sometimes if you’re having problems with what’s called adduction, lifting arms out to the side, pressing up overhead, getting pain in the top of the shoulder area, this is an exercise that you want to explore because it may make all the difference for you.
Let’s go through this step-by-step. It’s actually not that hard to do. There are only a couple of things you need to be aware of. I want you to start off in a nice tall spine position. You’re going to tuck your chin a little bit and then imagine that the crown of your head’s being pulled up to the ceiling. Now to actually affect this nerve, what we’re going to do is we’re going to begin by letting the arm hang at our side. Then we’re going to slightly flex the elbow. Doesn’t have to be 90, just a slight flexion in the elbow.
From here, we’re going to internally rotate. We’re going to turn the arm in from the shoulder. We’re then we’re going to pull the shoulder blade down. As you pull the shoulder blade down, hopefully what you’re starting to feel is tension building up or even a strange tingling sensation in a band distribution right around the bottom of the deltoid. This is called a continuous distribution for that nerve. Whenever you do the exercise correctly, you feel the stretch or you feel the little nerve tingling right in there.
Once again, nice tall spine. Tuck the chin slightly, flex the elbow, turn in at the shoulder, hold the shoulder blade down. You can also take the arm slightly behind you and tilt your head away. Those are the different combinations of things that will usually allow you to feel the sensation here. Now, once you can feel the sensation in this band area, and you can create that tension by getting in this basic setup, we now need to move because we’re trying to floss the nerve. We need to move in order to shift it through the tissues.
Here’s what I typically like to do. I’ll get tall, flex the elbow, turn in, pull the shoulder blade down, tilt my head away. Once I can feel the stress, I un-rotate my shoulder, re-rotate my shoulder, holding everything else the same. Shoulder blade has to be down, head away, un-rotate, re-rotate. I’m just going external, internal. I’ll do that 4-5 times, then I’ll get the tension on again, and then I will raise my shoulder blade, take the tension off, tension on, tension off, tension on. Do that about 5 times, and relax.
That’s it. It’s a very, very simple process, but if you will, test your range of motion and notice if it’s stiff or painful. Then do the exercise, then repeat the test of your range of motion. See if the stiffness and pain have improved. If so, this may be exactly the exercise that you need to be working on.
If it seems to work well for you, try to do it 3 to 5 times a day just as described. The biggest thing I want you to be aware of is don’t overstretch. You need to keep the intensity level 3 out of 10. 3 out of 10.
If you overstretch or over stress this and try and go, “I really, really, really, really need to feel it,” and you get up into an 8, 9, 10 intensity level, it usually goes badly wrong. I want you to be careful. I want you to be safe, so again keep the intensity 3 out of 10.
If it’s been working well for you, just make sure to repeat it throughout the day. Usually what we see with our clients is that within 5 to 10 days, many, many shoulder complaints just disappear.
That’s the axillary neuromechanic drill. I hope you enjoyed it. I hope it works well for you.
If you have any questions, please let me know.