The biomechanics are straightforward: The shoulder is designed to both hinge and rotate. When its rotational capability is restricted, the elbow is recruited to handle the assignment. That forceful biomechanical pas de deux is repeated every time the hand and wrist move through their basic range of motion.
In addition, as it narrows toward the wrist, the musculoskeletal components of the forearm are compacted together anyway. With the extra rotation generated by the elbow, the bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves don’t have enough room to do their things without getting in each other’s way.
When it comes to range of motion, most of us are locked into a 3-by-4-foot box. Take a moment to notice how closely your elbows remain to the sides of your torso. Of the dozens of individual motions you perform in a given 15- or 20-minute period, the elbows will only occasionally rise to anywhere near the level of the shoulders.
We’ve contrived to put our work and play right in the middle of the box, from keyboards and steering wheels to computer games, TV remote-control devices, and mountain bikes. By doing so, we have turned the elbows, wrists, and hands into drudges of the upper half of the body.
The upper limbs draw their dynamic power from the musculoskeletal structure of the torso. The complexity of the muscular harmonization makes the interplay of a symphony orchestra seem simple. So what are the keys to pain-free elbows? Bring the body back to balance and get outside the box!
1. Sit in the middle of a chair with your feet pointed straight ahead, 4-6 inches apart.
2. Place a strap around your knees applying constant pressure outward against the strap throughout the e-cise.
3. Roll your hips forward to place an arch in your low back and hold throughout the e-cise.
4. Hold this position and keep your upper body relaxed.
This exercise promotes thoracic extension by transferring the work from the abductors to the spinal extensors.