Atlas Shrugs or Removing the Chip on Your Shoulder


“I am distressed by the fate of my brother Atlas, who towards the west, stands bearing on his shoulders the pillar of heaven and earth,

a burden not easy for his arms to grasp.”

-Prometheus, from Aeschylus’, Prometheus Bound – 5th century BC





newton“If I have seen further than others, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

– Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1797)






“Poetry is a rich, full-bodied whistle, cracked ice crunching in pails,

the night that numbs the leaf, the duel of two nightingales, the sweet pea that has run wild,   WingedVictory

Creation’s tears in shoulder blades.”- Boris Pasternak


One could reasonably hypothesize that Pasternak had experienced the pain of shoulder strain, especially if you interpret “tear” as its homograph and note his other poetic adjectives – crunching and numb!











As many of us have experienced shoulder strain with daily work and increased seasonal and sports activities, let’s make an effort to protect ourselves from overdoing by considering a few basic principals beginning with  ROM – Range of Motion – the measurement of movement around a joint or body part.


Yes, there are established normal ranges from anatomical studies, expressed in degrees of flexion and extension, abduction and adduction, as well as external and internal components of movement, including the horizontal motion of the Glenohumeral joint as it functions in conjunction with the Scapular-Clavicular joint to perform movements including elevation, depression, retraction and protraction!

Shoulder - ROM

Did your eyes just cross and then uncross themselves?  Of course an understanding of anatomy and function are an aid to understanding, but let’s regroup for a more practical approach. If you have not read Spring has Sprung and sometimes Sprains for Ernie’s Tip #1, please do now.

Many shoulder issues are the result of over reaching and over loading, so take a moment to remember the common sense your learned from Mom.    MOM - heart

“Don’t reach for your work”…move your chair, ladder, feet,  closer to the task, so arms and shoulders can remain in a more neutral – relaxed – position.

“Lift with your legs”…use your awareness of your geographical center and initiate lifting with those big gluteus maximusgluteus maximus and quadricep muscles quadriceps  rather

than your teeny tiny shoulder muscles. The more closely anchored to your core – geographical center –  you keep heavy work, the greater the ease of movement and safety from injury.


(This video on Shoulder Packing for body builders, demonstrates in the extreme, how anchoring the shoulders protects them from injury.)


“STOP thinking with your shoulders”… After desk work and activities where arms are raised in front of the body – PC and Laptop keyboards, playing the piano or a string or wind  instrument, raking the lawn, shoveling in the garden, do a mental assessment…are your shoulders now living at home – in release – or in your ears?




Ernie’s Tip #2: Allow your Shoulders to return Home or Atlas Shrugs


From a relaxed standing position – after establishing your geographical center and good breathing, with arms to your sides – lift your shoulders by shrugging to the end of their ROM towards the ceiling.

Hold for two long, complete breaths and release. Breathe. Repeat six times and double check if your shoulder blades are now living in a more released,

back – together- and down, position.

If not…repeat.

Refine the above by:

…allowing your arms to hang loosely as your shoulders raise – don’t lift from your elbows.

…releasing – after two slow breaths – to allow your shoulders to fall/flop/drop downward to home.

…noticing how, as you breathe, your ROM increases.

…increasing your awareness so that your shoulders remain released in their neutral position, hanging from your lengthened spine.


Be Well!