Part 2 ~ What a Pain in the Neck !!!

Part 2 — what a pain the neck!

So we had our

Franklin Method® shoulder workshop this morning, as part of my ongoing learning of the Franklin Method, and thank you to all who attended. It was great to see so many of you come along and we had tea and coffee which I think was the selling point!

We began our workshop looking at our relationship with our shoulders and as mentioned last week, we really do hold a lot of negativity towards this area of our body. Everyone in the group associated stress, tension, pain and discomfort with this area.

So what was the aim of the workshop — ultimately we want to produce good movement, movement that produces relaxed shoulders through understanding your body’s design and how it is supposed to function which then gives you a starting point to effect change. You don’t want to keep problems recycling them over and over again. We need to change the record!

To answer questions from last week which I asked to the group.


Where does the arm attach? Well this is a little bit of a trick question as everyone said to the shoulder which is not wrong but we need to look at the whole area the arm attaches to which is the shoulder girdle — see above taken from Wikipedia.

The shoulder girdle is made up of the humerus (arm), scapula (shoulder blade), and the clavicle and has three joints — the glenohumeral joint (where arm attaches into shoulder), the acromio-clavicular (scapula on clavicle) and the sternoclavicular (clavicle onto the breast bone). Therefore the arm actually attaches to the breast bone. This is an important fact as the lower in your body that you can find support, the more stable you will be and the less tension will drift up into the shoulders and neck.

We looked at the skeleton model of the shoulder girdle and could see how small and shallow the ball and socket joint is where the arm attaches into the glenohumeral joint so there is a huge amount of mobility available and the joint will not be stabilised by the joints themselves but muscles and ligaments. This is why this area of the body has so much mobility but also a tendency towards injury because of it.

Why do we have a shoulder girdle? – We want to recognise that there should be space between the shoulder girdle and the rib cage so it can move more easily. It is a spacer between the thorax and the arm and it translates force between the arm and the torso.

We went through various exercises during the workshop in order to try to feel how the shoulder girdle moved because if you have no idea how your body is moving, how do you expect to improve the movement and change things for the better?

The law of physics suggests that the floor supports all bones so in this regard your base of support starts from the floor which supports the feet, the feet support the legs, the legs support the pelvis, the pelvis supports the spine, the spine supports the rib cage, the rib cage supports the scapula, the scapula suspends the clavicle and the clavicle suspends the arm. If we can embody that feeling of support from lower down our bodies, this will give us a more stable base and translate a release in tension through the rest of the body.

You could try swinging your arms and notice how it feels, then do it again trying to feel the movement coming from your centre. You might not get the gist of it straight away but once you do, your power will alter and your balance.

Balance can only improve if you understand the support network available to you. Increasing strength is great but won’t really change your balance if you don’t realise how to stabilise.

We did an exercise where we felt our clavicle, gave it a bit of a massage and swung our arm to feel how it moves which is a bit like a key unwinding and winding and we found that if the top part of the clavicle was restricted, we could not move our arm very high and again if the bottom part, near the breastbone was restricted from moving, this affected how we lifted the arm. Some identified that they had less spiralling movement on one side than the other.

Our body is a mass of bone rhythms which tend to work pretty much all together but there is a rhythm and we were looking to find, feel, discover the rhythm of how our arm moves. 

If you have tight shoulders, you will over compensate somewhere else — neck or back because something has to move when you move your arm. Also note that strengthening your back is great but won’t resolve tension in your shoulders.

So should we keep our shoulders fixed before movement? No – the idea of trying to hold your alignment as you move doesn’t work, it creates too much tension in your body. You just need to move and explore your movement to start really noticing what is going on.

We looked at moving just our arm, then our shoulders and hinging at the hips to see how everyone moved. Some of us find it all moves in one big clump so no differentiation which is really necessary for smoother, more efficient movement.

We became well acquainted with each other’s scapulas as we traced around our partner’s scapula just to see if we could find it and feel it. We then followed the movement as the arm lifted up and down. In elevation the scapula retracts (round shoulders), it then swings around the ribcage and dips back on top as the inferior tip swings forward so to be simpler — the scapula moves as if sliding around a ball.


I’m hoping this image will help with how your visualise this movement happening.

When the arm raises the shoulder blade has to elevate, rotate bottom tip (inferior angle) around the rib cage and then depress at the top tip (superior angle).

The humerus (arm) rolls up (see above), sinks deeper into the socket and effectively spins to stop it moving any further.

The clavicle slides down as you can see above, it spins to stop further downward movement, then rotates out like the scapula does.

Please note that the scapula cranks the clavicle with the help of ligaments. The scapula rotates first, the ligament becomes taught and the clavicle then rotates too. An almost spiralling effect.

These three bone rhythms all happen almost at the same time but need to happen which is why today we spent a lot of time trying to feel movement, visualise, see other people’s movement to get a better picture in our minds our the shoulder girdle works. 

So having massaged and tuned into our shoulder girdle I think we all felt a little bit more in touch with our bodies but also aware that to make change you have to change things up and anything that will improve our body is going to be a lifestyle change, a permanent change, not a passing one.

We all have the ability to help improve our body’s function. Becoming more aware of how it is designed to move, feeling it, imagining it, perhaps thinking of it differently, less negatively, we can make huge improvements to how we feel and how we move.

We have more workshops coming towards the end of January and March so keep an eye out and let me know if you are interested in attending. Topics will be the spine and the foot and I would like to do the Pelvis too maybe before the spine but will let you know.

Sources of reference: Franklin Method®