This produces a lovely feeling of freedom of movement in the back, spine and ribcage
The Latissimus Dorsi (“Lat”) muscle is one of the largest in the body, covering a large part of the back. It's incredibly easy to stretch, but is often overlooked in our daily stretching routines. It's worth knowing where this muscle lays in the body; it can affect not only tension in the back, but rotation in the torso and even ribcage, affecting comfortable breathing. This stretch is fantastic after sitting for a long time, or first thing in the morning after waking. It should produce a lovely feeling of freedom of movement in the ribcage, back and spine.
The Lat attaches from the upper arm, forms the back of the armpit, and drapes down the back, attaching to the spine just below the shoulderblades and stretching the length of the spine to the pelvis. This means it affects the ribs and spine, especially in the lower back.
Since the Lat attaches from the arm to the back, we need to move the arm away from the line of the spine in order to stretch it.
Stand with arms out straight at your sides, spine very straight.
Raise one arm up straight, over your head.
Take a deep breath, pull your abdominal muscles in, keep your pelvis straight, and reach that arm over your head, letting your spine bend as far as comfortable. Keep your feet firmly planted, and your legs locked comfortably. Hold for about 10 seconds and repeat on the other side.
This stretch is great for anyone who sits all day, or even for someone who drives for a large part of the day, as that uses the Lats as well. It's one of the most relaxing stretches you can perform! Add it in to your daily routine, and you'll feel amazing. If you notice any pain or restriction while stretching, hold for an extra second, or better yet, book a massage therapy appointment! I'm happy to help you work out the rest of the kinks. I'll see you at my Westport office!
You may be doing it wrong
There is hardly any point in our day that we're not using our rotator cuff muscles. But this group is not well-understood, either in location or in correct stretching technique. Stretching it is very simple, but stretching it correctly is nuanced. This entry is therefore meant to help you understand the function of this muscle group and how you can get the most out of your mobilization of it.
The Rotator Cuff Group is a group of four muscles on the back of the body, which attach from about the head of the humerus (upper arm) to the shoulderblade (scapula) at various locations on the shoulderblade. These muscles are: Supraspinatus, Infraspinatus, Teres Minor and Subscapularis. They are grouped together not only because of their similar position on the body, but also because of their similar movement of the body. These muscles are all involved in rotation of the upper arm. If one of them is not moving freely, it can feel as if the arm can't rotate at all. If one of them is stressed or strained, it can feel as if the entire scapula is throbbing.
We use these muscles not just in sports (like pitching in baseball), but in our every day life, such as when holding the wheel of a car, chopping vegetables, or even opening and closing a window. They are also opposite of the pecs on the body, meaning if the pecs are tight, the rotator cuff group is also being affected. This means they are affected even by the position in which we sleep. Keeping them healthy and supple is therefore very important.
Begin by standing with both arms at your sides.
Reach the right arm across the front of your body, just below your chin. This placement of the arm is critical. If the arm is lower, the muscles will not fully be engaged. This arm should also remain straight.
Cross the left arm over the right, above the elbow, bending the left arm to create a lever to pull the right arm toward your body. Pull softly at first and then gradually increase to move the head of the upper arm. (The movement of the upper arm should feel significant, although only probably an inch or so.)
This description is simple, but the movement can be done poorly: If you bend the arm below the elbow, the stretch won't work. If the stretching arm bends, the stretch won't be as deep. If your stretching arm is too low on the body, at the level of your sternum, for example, the stretch won't work.
I've seen all variations of the less-than-ideal version of this stretch. No matter how flexible you are, this movement, if done correctly, should produce a feeling of stretch. If it isn't, check your form and try again.
And if you're still having difficulty with your upper arm and shoulder, or if you feel you need more attention from a professional, feel free to schedule an appointment in my Westport office. I'm happy to go through the stretch with you, and help you determine which muscles are causing you trouble. I'll see you in my Westport office!
My favorite way to unwind!
We all have days when we feel absolutely exhausted by the time we get home. Have you ever felt like your legs have have stopped working and your hips are made of molten steel? I know the last thing you want to think about is stretching, but stay with me – this stretch is absolutely worth it. It'll make your hips, low back, legs and shoulders feel like they can actually function again.
Begin by laying flat on your back on a moderately hard surface (a yoga mat on the floor is good; a mattress or couch is not a great choice.) Bend your knees softly so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are together. Stretch your arms out on the floor at shoulder level.
Keeping your knees together, slowly let your legs fall to the left side of your body, keeping your arms on the floor. This will pull your entire pelvis to the side of your body. Take a breath.
Slowly drag your right arm on the floor up over your head, tracing a large circle above your body, ending on top of your other arm. This will twist your body completely into a fetal position on to your left side. This is one side of the stretch.
Move your legs and arms back to the starting point and repeat the motions to the other side.
If you notice that your shoulders, neck or clavicle are tight at any point while moving your arm, pause there, take another breath, and try to consciously relax that specific area. Don't let your legs come apart, and don't elevate your arms above the level of the floor. Attempt to keep your core muscles tightened, not letting your low back come up off the ground.
The concept of this stretch is that your arms are like the hands on a clock, slowly moving in a circle above your body. Your legs will pull your hips in opposition to this shoulder movement at first, which will stretch your lower spine. This means that this very simple movement stretches both the upper and lower body; and because it's so slow and controlled, also creates a sense of calm and relaxation.
This is my favorite stretch (to force myself) to perform at the end of a long day. It only takes a few minutes, and make the entire body feel amazing. Should you find that you body still needs some extra attention, feel free to make an appointment with me for a massage therapy session. I'm happy to schedule you at the end of your day, for when this feeling strikes. I'll see you in my Westport office!