….note from a Performance Coach working with primarily athletes
I was hoping that you could steer me to where I could find some more information on shoulder traction techniques (in case I used the incorrect name of the technique: the passive distraction of the humeral head from the glenoid to cause a reflexive contraction of the RTC). I have heard a few anecdotal comments on the technique but not found any comments on implementation of the technique or further discussion of the science behind it.
As a side note I have been implementing rhythmic stabilization techniques with external rotation of the glenohumeral joint, but am interested in what some of these distraction techniques may have to offer.
Both joint traction and rhythmic stabilization that you mention are major tenets of the PNF training system. I discuss them both in a large segment of my DVD @ the end of Day 1.
I’ve come to use the term ‘keyhole’ quite a bit recently, and these techniques are the inputs that the body craves for establishing a reset of the neuromuscular system.
Shoulder traction choices are choices that distract the humerus along a longitudinal plane, in this case the sagittal. Distraction as a term is separation of the joint in any plane. Typically, this is done via gapping the gleno-humeral joint in the frontal plane, but traction is in a distal direction towards the hand. Distal will not equate to caudal when the angle of the shoulder changes.
The reflexive RTC activation can be accomplished manually in any position by pulling the arm with varying positions of proximal stability. The humerus will gap, but it is relative to how well you stabilize the scapula if that is what you are looking for. The traction of the gleno-humeral joint could be the “threat” the body is looking for to click onto scapular stability and rotator cuff activation, but if you pull out the scapula because you are not stabilizing it with your hand or a Kaltenborn wedge, the rotator cuff may not be as facilitated.
Another strategy that can accomplish this effect is attaching a band to something sturdy and moving your body around the tractioning arm.
A very underrated choice in accessing shoulder traction to facilitate the rotator cuff is long arm heavy loading in such moves as the deadlift and farmer’s walk. This also tractions the shoulder and coupled with the necessary aggressive grip, irradiation further facilitates the rotator cuff to contract in conjunction with a stapled scapula. The enormous load (as long as it can be carried in the grip) is a great tool to access the PNF of resistance and distraction/traction.
Much in the spirt of what Gray and Mike Voight have termed Reactive Neuromuscular Training, the rotator cuff needs to a “threat” to deliver. This is not ideal if you require facilitation long term, but this is the PNF that we expect for success with this technique.