The shoulder is one of the most amazing joints in the human body, with an incredible range of motion and the potential for handling significant loads in almost all directions. However it’s one of the most commonly injured areas of the body, and one of the most frequently treated body parts we see as physical therapists.
A majority of problems in the shoulder are a result of “overuse” injuries or micro traumas, and result from abnormal movement mechanics and muscle imbalances. The key to solving these types of debilitating conditions is to address the dysfunction rather than simply treating the pain. In this way we treat the underlying cause of the issue and prevent the progression of the problem becoming a chronic condition and avoid recurrent injuries.
As physical therapists we often find that in order to restore proper mechanics at the shoulder we have to address muscle imbalances not only at the arm and shoulder but at the shoulder blade, upper back, and neck as well. One muscle in particular, the Serratus Anterior, is frequently weak and poorly utilized in many individuals with shoulder pathology. The importance of the Serratus is in it’s integral role as a dynamic stabilizer of the shoulder complex. Similar to a diving board requiring proper anchoring to the pool deck, the Serratus anterior provides foundational support to the shoulder blade every time we raise our arms. Learning how to activate and properly train the Serratus is often the key to unlocking chronic shoulder problems.
The first step in determining how your Serratus is operating and if it is contributing to your shoulder pain, is to get a full assessment by your physical therapist. If we determine that your Serratus is not functioning properly we will provide thorough instruction on exercises and strategies for addressing this issue and ultimately resolving the problem long term.