Welcome to Karen Claffey's Q & A!
Ask your questions about yoga, bodywork, wellness, structural alignment therapy and/or osteopathy.
February 7, 2017
ASK KAREN #1
I have a question for you: one of my older client had an injury as a child and got surgery done on the elbow. He is now an older man, and there's osteoarthritis in the arm. His right arm does not straighten as a result of bones spurs growing at the end of the humerus bone. Here are the conc;usions from XRay and CT
Severe osteoarthritic narrowing is seen between the radius and humerus and there is bony irregularity at the anterior olecranon and there is some suggestion of bony ossicle formation seen in the antecubital fossa and in the medial aspect of the ulnohumeral joint.
The reason I wanted talk to you is that I remember in one of our classes, you memtioned that you have helped people with bunions, and I'm wondering if there would be something you would suggest for him to try and reverse the process without resorting to surgery.
Claudine LaRochelle, RYT
To your question about the older client, medically speaking: there is not a lot we can do once the joint has changed due to osteoarthritis. That said, I am one to think outside of the confines of the medical model and always aim for the what might be possible....so if this client is diligent and will do:
1. anti-inflammatory diet
2. shoulder and arm mobilisation exercises - these are to be done with Shoulder Loop integration, and only to the point of where there is no pain.
3. Shoulder Loop strengthening exercises
...then he can at the very least delay the progression, and at best perhaps reverse some of the effects.
What is Shoulder Loop?
There are 5 Actions of Shoulder Loop:
1. Inhale: expand the inner body (fill the inner body with light and Gratitude) / lengthen the side-body
2. Exhale: draw the heads of the humerus back
3. Externally rotate the upper-arms
4. Internally rotate the forearms
5. Inhale: expand evenly all around; exhale and soften.
The Affects of Shoulder Loop:
The action of Shoulder Loop lifts the heart and sternum in the front body, the clavicles roll up, while the shoulder blades flow down the back-body. As the shoulder blades come down we want to be mindful to not shorten our side-body – keep the inner body fullness.
The shoulder girdle is perfectly placed on torso, and the heads of the humerus are optimally aligned in the shoulder sockets.
If we do not have enough Shoulder Loop the sternum will be dropped down and the shoulders will be forward, resulting in rounded shoulders.
With too much Shoulder Loop there will be a flattening of the thoracic spine as the sternum moves further forward.
Inhaling and expanding the inner-body with Open to Grace/Gratitude lengthens the side-body, creating a doming in the arm pits.
Drawing the heads of the humerus back with Muscle Energy increases stability and core connection.
When we balance the actions of shoulder loops (as well as kidney and skull loop below and above) this allows for full breath capacity and organ function.
Spiritually, shoulder Loop increases our capacity for joy.
While we are addressing shoulder alignment, I’d like to speak to the shoulder cues were consistently taught in all my fitness years and early yoga years. These cues are: “shoulders away from the ears” or “shoulders down” or “shoulders back and down”.
I am not saying this is wrong. What I would like to explain is that these generic cues likely came about because it’s a common tendency to pull our shoulders forward and up, especially when we are stressed.
For clarity sake, let’s feel what happens when we “pull our shoulders away from our ears” - notice the muscle tension under the arm pits, and the stretch along the tops of the shoulders. Now feel your breath…the quality and volume of your breath. Rotate your head side to side and notice the range of motion.
Now let’s feel the difference when we do the 5 actions of shoulder loop. Feel your breath. Rotate your head side to side. Typically you will feel fuller breath capacity, and greater range of motion.
The reason for this is because as we know when the body is not optimally aligned it limits movement for protection, and pressing the shoulders just down is not necessarily placing the humerus and shoulder blades in the most safe and optimal position.
To be more accurate, if after we cue the 5 actions of shoulder loop, someone still has their shoulders up and forward, we can give them addition cues, such as having them “soften the shoulders down, while keeping your inner body fullness” or whatever may be required for that specific individual.