Shoulder Holds

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Common Holds

  • Above and below the shoulder
    Above and below the shoulder
  • Bilateral contact from head
    Bilateral contact from head
  • Bilateral contact from head
    Bilateral contact from head
  • Shoulder and elbow
    Shoulder and elbow


Basic Hold: Above and below the shoulder joint

Make a simple contact above and below the shoulder. You can rest your forearm arm along the clients upper arm.

Bi wiki hold shoulder above below.jpg


Bilateral shoulder contact from the head end

The bilateral contact from the head end is a very common general hold. It is often easier for a new client than starting at the cranium or at the sacrum. It is a great way to tune into the whole body.
If you are using this hold specifically to support a story that is expressing through the shoulders, then a huge advantage of this hold is that you can compare sides to see how they are moving. Supporting resolution of a stuck pattern in this region can be as simple a state of balance occurring as the shoulder movements settle like a see-saw around the midline.

Bi wiki hold shoulders from above.jpg

Holding the upper arm

This is a nice variation that allows you to support the whole upper arm by holding under the elbow as shown. Sometimes shoulders like to dance as the tissues change tone, from this contact you can 'take gravity off' and allow the shoulder to move more freely.

Bi wiki hold shoulder elbow supported.jpg

Treatment Notes


The shoulder is an incredible joint. The range of movement permitted is astounding. There is a complex arrangement of muscles and bones to bind the humerus to the scapula, and the scapula to the skeleton. It can be a tricky joint to treat as there is so much going on. The relationship of the shoulder to the neck is of paramount importance. The nerve flow through the brachial plexus can be compromised. Shoulder muscles can become inhibited due to cervical spinal subluxations. Rotator cuff tears, labrum tears, impingement issues and arthritis take longer to heal. The alignment of the clavicle between the sternum and the acromion is often neglected, also stuck first ribs, both can be important in shoulder dysfunction. The upper and mid thoracic vertebrae and ribs will often hold stories in hard to treat shoulder issues.

Relevant Anatomy

The shoulder joint involves three bones: the scapula, the clavicle and the humerus. The coracoid process of the scapula is an anterior projection from the scapula that can be confusing. There are four articulations that make up the shoulder complex: the sternoclavicular joint; the acromioclavicular joint; relationship of the scapula to the ribs and the glenohumeral joint. The scapula is attached to the ribs by muscles. The glenohumeral joint is the ultimate ball and socket joint.

The rotator cuff muscles are four relatively small muscles that attach to the head of the humerus from the scapula, the supraspinatus is often weak leading to difficulties abducting the shoulder. Via the trapezius and the latisimus dorsi the shoulder complex is directly attached to the whole of the spine. The big pectorals muscles on the front are often very tight, pulling the shoulders forward. Many of us struggle to engage the serratus anterior muscles that draw the scapula inferior and onto the ribs. The deltoid, biceps and triceps are very powerful muscles that cross the shoulder joint. There is even a muscle that attaches from the scapula to the hyoid - the omohyoid.

The joint capsule has to accommodate all the shoulder movements. One theory around the cause of frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis - rarely a simple condition to treat) is that the capsule becomes inflamed and sticks to itself limiting movement.

Cranial intelligence joints arm.jpg Shoulder scapula blue.jpg Shoulder xray.gif