Guns and Shoulder Tension


Dec. 14.

The anniversary of the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT has made me think about guns and gunmen. It’s also brought to mind a client—a different sort of gunman--who wanted my advice about his chronic shoulder pain.

This man had worked for many years as a parole officer, and a requirement of his position had been a quarterly shooting evaluation. The pain in his shoulder dated back to that period in his life, and persisted despite his having been retired from law enforcement for several years.

Stabilizing the Scapula to Support the Shot

I asked the man to show me the position in which he would have stood to fire his weapon. Holding the imaginary gun in his right hand and with his left arm reaching forward under the firing hand for support, his position was much like the model you see above. As in the photo, the man’s upper shoulder stabilizers were over-active, the chest area was depressed and head, forward.

shoulder stabilizers

Upper trapezius and levator scapula link the scapula to the neck, too slender a frame for absorbing the gun’s recoil. Without scapular support from lower down in the torso—from lower trapezius, latissimus dorsi and serratus anterior--the gun’s recoil targeted the gleno-humeral socket. Such punishment 4 times a year could easily have developed into chronic muscle tension and pain.

Manual therapy treatment had given this man only temporary relief. So I decided to teach him the basics of shoulder stability--what I have already shared with all of you in Chapter 6 of The New Rules of Posture, and in Lesson 5 of my DVD workshop.

After he had learned new ways to support his right shoulder, we applied the learning to familiar movements. Because he practices yoga, I asked him to rehearse downward dog, and then to contrast the new and old ways of raising his arm to brush his teeth, comb his hair, drive, etc.

At this point in our session, the client revealed that he had always hated guns, and had dreaded the target assessments. I suggested there could be emotional energy to this pain: "there was a war going on inside your poor shoulder—it had to simultaneously shoot and not shoot." So we re-choreographed the action of bringing the gun to firing position, using the new shoulder support awareness. This was a strong moment for this man.  His eyes blinked in confusion at first (a sign of his brain recalibrating), and then it looked as if a weight were falling off him, as if revising the past had made him taller.

One less gun in the world


At the end of the lesson, I asked the man what had happened to his gun. It was locked away in a friend’s safe. It might be good to get rid of it, I suggested. Take it to a gun buy-back program. Because even though it’s not in your house, it’s in your emotional field, still part of you in a way that isn't beneficial.

For me, a thing to celebrate: one less gun loose in the world.

© 2013 Mary Bond