SHOULDERS: Metaphors and Physical Body

Metaphors abound when it comes to the body’s shoulders. What comes to mind when we say or hear the word, shoulder, is a sense of being strong, supportive and to take upon oneself a task. The expression of shoulders is used in familiar quotes, such as, “Carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”. “She has a good head on her shoulders”. “Lifting the burden off our shoulders”. “I got a cold shoulder from him”. Shoulders are very expressive in communicating our feelings. When we are in doubt, we shrug our shoulders. Shoulder is also used as a verb, shouldering. Shouldering is defined as “to put something heavy over the shoulders to carry” and “to push or shove someone out of the way”. In the physical body, we tend to not think about our shoulders if they are healthy and happy. The moment a restriction is present, our daily movements are inhibited making our life more difficult to navigate. Healthy and functioning shoulders give us the sense of strength in our lives.

Shoulders require a combination of mobility and strength. The shoulder is the head of the humeral bone. The arms, scapula, clavicle, the ribs (first two ribs especially) and the neck are all involved with the dynamic motions of the shoulder. You can read more detail about the shoulders and neck in my book, “Centered” chapters 7 and 8.

In the next series of member videos, the Bow and Arrow Series, was inspired by my archery hobby. Shooting an arrow requires a balance of strength and flexibility of the shoulder. I developed a series of shoulder complex and spine movements that enhances the strength with the mobility of the shoulders.

A way to assess your mobility of the whole complex is by performing the Apley scratch test. Dr. Alan Apley, (1914-1996) an English orthopedic surgeon, developed the Apley scratch test to assess the simultaneous movement of the shoulder girdle, primarily scapulothoracic and glenoid humeral joints. The movements include shoulder flexion, extension, internal and external rotation of the humerus at the shoulder, scapular adduction and abduction. One movement is to flex, externally rotate the arm and scapular abduction. The other is to extend, internally rotate the arm and scapular adduction. The right arm reaches behind the back to touch the opposite inferior angle of the scapula. The left arm reaches upward reaching behind the back to touch the spine of the same side scapula. Repeat it to the other side. Watch for thoracic extension in the attempt to touch the scapula.





Normal mobility is to touch the spine of the same side scapula while reaching up and over the back. The other hand is to touch the opposite tip of the scapula. Increased mobility is to touch the finger tips together or actually grabbing the fingers.

You will feel a difference between one side with the other. Moving the thoracic spine, in coordination of the shoulder full range of motion is important for healthy and pain-free shoulders.

Test yourself first. Try all of the Bow and Arrow Series movements and re-test. You will feel a change when repeating the test.

While shooting the bow and arrows, I realized how the combined movements of shoulders, spine and scapula are important to being able to shoot well. The benefits of the training of the shoulder girdle, arms and spine with the combined motions will help my mobility and strength of my upper body.


The stance is the base of support for the ability to shoot. Adding the work of the legs with the combined arm motions made the training benefits even greater. This is why I decided to create a Bow and Arrow shoulder series.


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