The shoulder is a tricky joint. There are so many factors that impact its health. Plus, shoulder pain can be caused by more than just a nearby dysfunctional muscle. Neck injuries and heart attacks also cause shoulder pain. Honestly, when you look at all the potential causes for shoulder pain, it can be incredibly difficult to pinpoint the exact cause without proper imaging from your doctor.
However, there’s a sequence of movements you can perform to improve your shoulder health if you are certain you:
- are not having a heart attack,
- have not injured your cervical spine (neck), and
- are certain that you have not torn any muscles located in the shoulder joint.
I call this exercise sequence The Shoulder Dance, but really it’s an excerpt of the Flower Seed Dance by Irene Dowd.
Where Did This Come From?
My Pilates teacher, Tracy Maxfield, always taught us much more than Pilates. We would come with pains and injuries, and then, when we’d be on break, he’d gives us tips to relieve pain and get our bodies back to neutral.
Tracy has a saying for when things are really messed up with your body–“geebered up.”
One day, we were addressing the issue of someone’s “geebered up” shoulders. (It was me.) Tracy had us all perform a sequence of movements that he learned when he studied with Irene Dowd. This sequence immediately put my shoulders back in neutral and relieved the pain and discomfort I was feeling.
Who Is Irene Dowd?
Irene Dowd is a renowned dancer, choreographer, and anatomy and neuromuscular training expert. Naturally, because of her background, the movement patterns that she has created have a wonderful, dance-like flow to them.
Tracy was fortunate enough to attend a lecture of hers some time ago, and he has recommended attending one of her lectures so many times that her name is now chiseled in my brain. Irene Dowd still lectures. I recommend using Google to find out about her upcoming workshops.
Dowd describes her private teaching practice as, “an individualized approach to solving functional problems of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems which involve discomfort or inability to achieve functional movement potential.”
The Shoulder Dance
So, be aware that the sequence that follows is what I do with my clients. It is simply a portion of Irene Dowd’s Flower Seed Dance.
The key to the Shoulder Dance is the placement of the head of your humerus. For each move, think about where your humerus should go. If it doesn’t naturally go where it should, think about the effects of this dysfunction on your body.
- With your palm down, raise your arm to shoulder level. As you do this, the head of your humerus should slide toward the back of your shoulder socket.
- Rotate your palm to face the ceiling. Feel how you rotate your arm by opening through the shoulder joint, not by rotating at the elbow or wrist.
- Bend your elbow and place your fingertips on your shoulder. You shouldn’t notice any change at your shoulder joint with this motion.
- Keep your collarbones broad as you raise your elbow toward the ceiling. When this happens, your scapula should slide down and out of the way so that the head of your humerus can angle downward in the back of the shoulder socket.
- While keeping everything stable at your shoulder joint, straighten your elbow.
- Lower your arm by your side and feel the head of your humerus return to the midpoint in the shoulder socket. Your palm should be facing forward, and you should be in an anatomically neutral position.
- Do 2 or 3 repetitions on this side.
- Then, switch sides. Remember, one side will probably be more challenging than the other.
Flower Seed Dance
To see the full sequence, click here, then click on the link for the Flower Seed Dance. The above link goes to a page with several videos featuring Irene Dowd’s movements. If you have some time, you should watch some of the other videos and notice how they impact how you feel.
What do you think of the Shoulder Dance? Did you get to check out the Flower Seed Dance? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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