I was working with a patient with shoulder pain the other day and by the end of the session, treatment was focused on helping improve the movement of his thoracic spine. (That's right-- work on the spine in order to help the shoulder!) Treating this part of the spine is important because the thoracic spinal segments and shoulder girdle are so closely interconnected. They are close in proximity (anatomically speaking), and movements of one component affect the other.
When I am working with anyone with shoulder pain, neck pain, or pain around the scapulae (shoulder blades), improving thoracic spinal mobility always seems to help.
One of my go-to moves I have patients do to help get better movement in the middle portion of the spine is called "Open Book". This improves thoracic rotation specifically. You will also get a great stretch in your chest and arm in the “open” position of this move as well. The goal is that when you improve spinal mobility, mechanics of other body parts in the region (i.e. the shoulder or neck) function and feel better too!
Here are the details about Open Book:
How to perform: Lie on your side. (You may rest your head on a pillow if you need neck
support.) Start with both arms extended out in front of you. Next, raise your top hand toward the ceiling and then eventually open all the way to where you are looking over your shoulder.
Your hips stay still throughout this movement. For a greater stretch in your arms, actively reach fingertips away from you. Perform this movement five times each side.
If having an outstretched arm feels too difficult or causes any discomfort in your shoulder, place your top hand behind head to keep your elbow bent.
The next time you give Open Book a try, notice if that helps you feel any different than before you started. And if you love this move, you can find more like it in The Simple Cure to Neck and Upper Back Pain.
Leave a comment below and let me know how Open Book works for you. Cheers to simple and effective motion!