Another movement we should all be able to do. Can you?


Do you regularly shoulder-check when you drive? If not, is the reason you don’t that it hurts, or that you can’t?

I was biking home from work the other day along a not-too-busy street, and I wanted to turn left onto another not-too-busy street. So as usual, I shoulder-checked before making my turn, and was surprised to find I couldn’t turn my head as far as I normally can, and even more surprised to feel a jab of pain at the end of the range.

Taking a hand off the handlebars to allow me to twist my upper back and look further was out of the question because I was slowly cranking up a steep hill, and I needed to pull the handlebars with both my hands.

When slowly biking up a steep hill, the last thing one wants to do is stop completely and put a foot down, as it is tough to get going again.

So while I kept cranking I listened, and not hearing anything coming, I started my turn, only to slam on my brakes as a surprisingly quiet car zoomed passed me.

SHEESH! Okay, my bad. I know, I know. I did a stupid thing, took a chance and got lucky. Sorry mommy, I won’t do it again.

Shoulder-checking is something we all need to be able to do, especially if we drive, bike, ski, skate, snowboard, race, play team sports etc. Many sports like golf, tennis, and baseball require being competent at twisting. And not being able to shoulder-check can actually be dangerous – I can attest to that!

Our neck should be able to twist 60 to 80 degrees, and our thoracic (rib) spine should be able to twist about 30 degrees, so that gives us between 90 and 110 degrees of available rotation. 90 to 110 degrees!!!

So if we keep our ribs still, we should be able to turn our head until our chin is almost lined up with our shoulders, and if we twist the ribs too, we should be able to see something pretty much directly behind us, thanks to our peripheral vision.

The lumbar spine is not meant to twist, and twisting the low back while rounding it can cause injuries, so if you are twisting, make sure you have an arch in your back!

So, how well can you twist? Can you twist the same amount to each side?

If we have pain with twisting, it is worth seeing a manual therapist – a chiro, physical therapist, massage therapist etc. to address the cause our pain.

If we do not have pain, then to improve our range of motion we need to do a variety of twist stretches and mobility exercises, both from the top down and from bottom up.

Make a goal of improving your ability to rotate, and work at it each day. No equipment is needed, and you can do it in your pajamas, so as Nike says, “Just Do It!” If you need help, find a competent corrective exercise specialist or trainer. If you are in Vancouver, come see us!

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Copyright 2013 Vreni Gurd

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