Do you brachiate?

Author: Justine Cosman, PT, DPT : Doctor of Physical Therapy, Business Owner, Associate Professor, and Blog Contributor. Explores common client questions and helps find solutions for every day functional health concerns, and then some. Loves empowering others, seeking adventure, and learning every day. Learn more about Justine on Google+.

Brachiation is really just a fancy word for having the ability to raise our arms overhead and swinging. Humans and primates are the only beings that are able to enjoy this important function due to our sternoclavicular joint (where the collarbone meets the manubrium/part of the chest bone) - we will go into more detail about this in another post. For the ease of this blog, "brachiating" will be "reaching overhead."  However, if you really think about it, how often have you done this?

If you are like most Americans, probably not very much. You probably reach overhead in rare instances of putting dishes in upper cupboards, cleaning the shower curtains, or changing a lightbulb. If it has been a while, these positions may not feel as comfortable as they once did as a kid. Most of us work in positions that are down low - many of us, on a computer.

So what's the big deal?

Well, brachiation or even just reaching overhead moves us close to a position called "closed packed" position. This is basically where the ball and socket joint (humerus and glenoid fossa if you want to get technical) come into most contact. This pressure and contact help to spread nutrients and fluid across the joint that keep it healthy. If you don't move into these positions, then you are missing out on loading these tissues (not to mention the muscles!) and they will lose their ability to function at their fullest potential. This could be why tissues such as the rotator cuff (the muscles around the shoulder) can become unhealthy WITHOUT trauma.

Motion is lotion! If you don't use it, you lose it!

The classic PT sayings apply!

Bryan Lang, Physical Therapist

Bryan "brachiating"

in between clients!

So raise your arms overhead (and wave them around like you just don't care). Play on monkey bars. Climb on rocks. Move into that downward dog. Throw that overhead pass. Know that you are doing activities to promote a healthy shoulder.

Justine at the Warrior Dash

Justine "brachiating"

at the warrior dash!

Brooke Carmen Physical Therapist

Brooke "brachiating"

on her lunch break!

Should these activities hurt or it has been a while since you have done them, we, as your movement specialists, are here to help! Brachiation can be limited due to several factors (the neck, upper back, inert tissue, musculature, poor coordination, limited motion, too much motion, etc). We can find the limitations that keep you from closed-packed position and help prevent unnecessary injury.