Pinky Shoulder Saver

Anterior shoulder pain is often triggered by ‘excessive’ grip drive through the thumb and index finger.

To specify the sites of pain I’m referring to, see spots 1, 2, or 4 on the picture below:
photo credit: shoulderdoc.co.uk

Why might this be the case?  My guess is because it’s easier to grasp onto things with the first two fingers.  The clutching pattern has been practiced since birth.  It’s like being right-handed.  More practice equals greater dexterity,  which continues preference into further dominance.  You inherently reach for more things with the hand you write with.

There’s also an anatomical slant to the “thumb-and-forefinger-TO-front-shoulder” theory.  Just trace line up the arm from the gap between them.  It lands smack dab on the foremost part of the shoulder.

See last arm below:
photo credit: adanmgarcia.deviantart.com
To counteract this troublesome concentration of force, look to the opposite.  If you trace a line up from the pinky, it ends at the posterior shoulder and lateral portion of the upper back.  (See first arm above). 

Here’s a rough side-by-side muscular comparison:
photo credit: hspus.weebly.com
A more detailed posterior view, with the infraspinatus added to teres major and minor.
photo credit: bookcoverings.com

Where the crazily crowded thumb-pointer finger line ends up: 

photo credit: netterimages.com

Inflammation makes the space even tighter.  What causes inflammation? Always using the same muscles in the same way.  All front with no back makes for an irritated shoulder.
To fix, you first have to feel for the shift from anterior to posterior, so you know the difference between correct and incorrect.  This can be done with kettle bell humeral rotations and holds.

Grip the kettlebell securely in your palm, not hanging from the fingers.  Push the kettlebell away from you, and resist the urge to shrug up against it.  Rotate the entire arm, both above and below the elbow.  Lead the movement with the pinky side of the hand. The left arm with the small weight shows only lower arm rotation.  If the bicep moves, the humerus must move.

I often have clients squeeze a kettlebell in each hand and hold the external rotation, while doing single leg stands and farmers walks.  The shoulder adjustment trickles down into the torso, hips, and feet.

Once you’ve got the proper feeling down, test your learning through application.  When you’re pulling or pressing (either vertical or horizontal), focus on the pinky and outside of your hand getting some action.  For rows, wrap the pinky first to ensure it leads the hand in closing onto the implement. For presses, it might take a small wrist adjustment (lateral side up), but establish that the pinky side heel of hand is dominating the push.

If you’re using a band or TRX-like device, face the hanging point and lean back to feel the entire posterior chain light up.

If the movement hurts but there’s no memory of injury, it’s likely pain is being caused from one part of the body doing all the work.  Use the pinky to give the shoulder some long overdue rest. 

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