Massage & Bodywork

March/April 2012

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technique BODYREADING THE MERIDIANS | @WORK | ESSENTIAL SKILLS | MYOFASCIAL TECHNIQUES The Arm Lines By Thomas Myers In our continuing series on visual assessment via the Anatomy Trains lines, let us now explore BodyReading the shoulders and arms. The shoulders involve not one, but six myofascial meridians. Our highly mobile shoulders move and shift position in a wide variety of ways relative to the ribs and neck, contributing to strain and pain patterns that include everything from headaches to compensations in the low back and even the legs. With such complexity before us, we simplify here by 1) highlighting the uniqueness of the human arm architecture, 2) briefly outlining the lines involved, and 3) giving some indications of how the shoulder can efficiently rest, move, and respond to the breath. Our shoulders have a complicated history. In most four-legged creatures, the foreleg bears more weight than the hind leg. The ribs and spine rest into a myofascial sling made primarily out of the serratus anterior muscle (Image 1A). In a well-trained 1 horse or a thin fellow doing a push up, the saw-toothed slips of serratus are readily visible. Since we reared up on our hind legs some 4 million years ago, we freed the shoulder from its job of being the primary support that holds the torso up off the earth. If the anthropologists and comparative anatomists have it right, our line of ancestry went through a time of swinging through the trees, which developed the prehensile capability of our hands, and involved the shoulder moving and rotating laterally to support the entire weight of the body—but this time in tension, from hanging, not bracing (Image 1B). When we came down out of the trees and onto the seashore, the arms were freed to swim, pick up sticks and stones, curl around our beloved children, steady the plow, and tap on computer keys. Our human shoulder is no longer the major structural column (except for those doing handstands or headstands). For us, the shoulder is supported by the structural column—a yoke that half hangs off the neck and half rests on the top of the ribs. When you include the weight of the attendant muscles, the shoulder girdle is remarkably heavy, and can easily load the neck and spine significantly, and detrimentally if it is out of balance (Image 1C). While the arm and leg are similar A C B The shoulder is the main support for the body weight in compression for most quadrupeds (A) and the main support in tension for arboreal apes (B). In a standing human (C) this is all reversed: it is the turn of the heavy shoulder assembly to be supported by the ribs and spine. 98 massage & bodywork march/april 2012 in construction—a ball and socket joint, then one bone, then a hinge joint, then two bones, then three, four, and five bones in a similar arrangement— the shoulder and arm definitely lean toward mobility, while the leg and hip are designed more for stability (Image 2). Put simply: to keep up

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