Sleeper Stretch

Sleeper Stretch


So this is for Elna in South Africa. She’s a tennis player, and she has a problem with her shoulder. And what can happen with tennis players is, due to repetitive actions like serving or hitting a ball, the muscles at the back of your shoulder can get very weak. And when they get weak, they don’t really slow the arm down well enough so the tissue that actually holds your shoulder together, it’s called the posterior capsule, gets overstressed. And when the cells in the back of the shoulder are getting overstressed they make more tissue. They want to make that tissue stronger so that there’s no risk that it’ll break. When the tissue at the back of the shoulder gets tight, then that leads to an imbalance around the shoulder joint which then causes the humeral head to have an obligatory upward motion when you go to lift your arm up . The humeral head is here. And then the saucer is on the other side, it’s called the glenoid. The capsule is like a shirt sleeve. It’s loose and baggy when your arm is at the side, and it gets tight when your arm goes over your head. If the capsule, the ‘shirtsleeve’ at the back of the shoulder, becomes thick and tight because of repetitive use, then when you go to lift your arm up the humeral head is actually pushed up underneath the acromion and you’ll feel pain at the front of the shoulder. So if you’ve got the tightness at the back of the shoulder, what you need to do is a stretch called the sleeper stretch. You have to immobilize the shoulder blade. If you just try and stretch the back of your shoulder by pulling your arm across your body, you’re actually just stretching the muscles on the other side of your shoulder blade because you’re pulling your whole shoulder blade around your chest wall. So what we do is we have to lie down on our side. I’m lying on my scapula or my shoulder blade. My arm is at about ninety degrees. My elbow is about ninety degrees. I’m just going to take my other hand and put it at the back of my forearm. And I’m going to push my hand down towards my hip, and I roll my body over onto my shoulder blade. I feel a stretch right back here, in the posterior capsule. Now, some people won’t feel much of a stretch with their arm in this position. So what Is suggest you do then is you get a block, it doesn’t have to be quite this thick or your could use a pillow. And you put your elbow up on the block, and then get in the same position, rolling onto your shoulder blade. And for me, that really intensifies the stretch. You should hold it for about forty seconds. And then after you do this, I want you to lie on your back and put your arms up in the “stick ’em up position.” Just press your hands into the floor so that you’re activating the muscles in the back of the shoulder. And you’ll do six contractions for six seconds each. I would do that several times a day. Because you’ll find that the tissue will lengthen, you’ll feel good, and then it will tighten up again as the day goes on. So you should do the stretch and the little activation exercise frequently throughout the day. Then you’ll see big improvements over about 4-6 weeks.

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