Grandma said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Applied to our health–incorporating into our daily lives a foundation level self-care program practiced regularly during times of no problem is like an ounce of prevention; seeking a skilled professional to get us out of pain due to years of neglect and misuse of our physical vehicle is like a pound of cure.
The funny thing is that what a trained eye recognizes as neglect and misuse often seems to us as normal living. We usually follow a habitual movement routine as required by job and home duties which in and of themselves are non-harmful. But the same limited expression of these body parts over and over, day-in and day-out, over months, years…decades!–without any re-balancing practices–risks developing into a repetitive strain injury which can be difficult to cure.
In today’s post we continue on this theme with effective yet simple preventive wellness exercises for the two proximal joints of the upper extremity: shoulder and elbow.
Olecranon Trace Grand Circles
Olecranon (oh-LEK-ruh-non; the tip of the elbow) Trace Grand Circles exercise provides for a fuller expression of both the shoulder joint as well as the many muscles/tendons in this area. There are four distinct movements comprising the complete exercise: right side forward circles, right side backward circles, left side forward circles, left side backward circles. Forward circle means rising up the back and coming down the front; backward circle means frontal ascent and rear descent.
Method: starting with the right side, let the tip of the middle finger lightly touch (or come as close possible to–for those of you rocking the boss-level gun show) the shoulder; maintain the arm in this way with a minimum of muscle tension. Think that you want to draw a grand circle in the sky with the olecranon, first forward for the decided-upon number of repetitions then backwards. Repeat on the left.
Feeling/Image: think that the body has to execute this exercise through air that is thick. Thus, all the muscles, tendons, and ligaments are lightly energized (but not clenched) and participating in the movement. Feel a light stretch in the various muscle groups in the vicinity of the shoulder. Within reason, slower is better as it favors a deeper body-mind connection. The movement is smooth like a wheel gently turning; the intent to draw a circle with the elbow tip is clear.
Suggested Dose: 4-6 circles in each direction, each side is one set. One to two sets daily.
Caution: should you feel pain on the first few attempts of the exercise, discontinue and notify a qualified healthcare provider. Clicking in the shoulder joint with no accompanying pain is generally not problematic; however, practice integrating what your gut, your heart, and your intellect is telling you and stop if that’s the message coming from within
Variation: doing one arm at a time is the recommended version as you can focus in on what you’re sensing. When you feel sufficiently familiar with the exercise you can mix it up by moving both upper extremities in tandem. Especially sassy types might want to switch the order to right side forward, left side forward, right side backward, left side backward.
Supplementary video follows below.
Elbow Joint Rotatives
Like the above exercise, Elbow Joint Rotatives allow for fuller expression at the elbow joint as well as in the muscles/tendons/fascia above and below that articulation.
Method: the basic idea is the opening and closing of the joint with the forearm-wrist-hand moving circularly in space as a functional unit. When first familiarizing yourself with this exercise, I recommend you do one limb at a time so you can listen to the information your body is expressing. Below are two-arm variations when you’re ready to mix it up.
Feeling/Image: practice thinking that you are moving through thicker air; all muscles, tendons, and joints are lightly energized yet relaxed; the movement is absent of excessive clenching. Relaxed, qi flow is smoother; to the degree one is clenched up, qi flow is proportionally blocked. Relaxed, however, does not mean slack nor weak. An ocean wave is never clenched up yet it easily topples us over with its strength. Let there be an accompanying internal rotation and external rotation of the arm-forearm unit that follows the natural tendency of the movement.
Suggested Dose: 4-6 times one way, then the other way, each limb constitutes one set. One to two sets daily.
Caution: same as Olecranon Trace Grand Circles except applied to elbow; refer to above.
Variations: when doing both limbs together, you can add variety by moving the forearms in the coronal, sagittal, and transverse planes. Other options are opening and closing the articulations simultaneously, or oppositionally so that when the right is flexing the left is extending and vice versa. Fun for days!
Team this up with foundation-level wrist and hand exercises for a complete upper extremity routine suitable for daily practice
Enjoy this supplementary video :
Even when our proactive wellness game is tip-top, we need help from time to time from qualified health professionals. Justin Jaucian, MS, L.Ac is a NJ Board Certified Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist whose practice specializes in the health of the muscles and joints. Follow the links for office location and testimonials.
Copyright (c) 2018, Justin Jaucian