Bringing Balance to Your Life

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Reasoned Considerations 2021

On this page you can browse about the posts, ponders and seeing things differently posted in 2021 in the blog Reasoned Considerations.

Read blogs from 2022

Read blogs from 2023


Vignette: Everyday life: Bringing your arm forward at shoulder level
(April 2021)

pictures of people reaching forward
Collage of people reaching forward

So why have an Alexander Technique session?

Wellbeing improver of 70+ would like to know if we could do anything about a little problem she had in her right shoulder. She experiences pain when bringing her arm in front of her at the gleno-humeral joint (what is often called the shoulder joint). She also feels sometimes like a pulling in her joint. She has no injury.

Performance of the activity

We started the session with Wellbeing Improver showing me how she performs her activity. I noticed some movement behaviour in the head∕neck relationship and in the right shoulder down to the hand.

We are looking for improvement

During an Alexander Technique session, we are looking for an improvement and for the movement in the activity to be reasoned out so that the Improver performs it more easily. It may be that the problem brought to the session is resolved; it might not have to be the case though. Applying a process that brings about a gradual improvement because we reasoned out how to move is what we are after.

Not trying to get it ‛right’

An important point to remember is that during a session, we are always working with the body. There is not a goal to achieve, and we stay at all times within comfort. At some point, when Improver was performing her activity, I noticed she winced. It turned out she wanted to get the movement ‛right’ (Man's Supreme Inheritance, p. 81). This led us to discuss ‛right’ and ‛right’. The first one is judgemental; the 2nd one has the meaning of ‟the most effective way”. In sessions, we work with the latter meaning as it is not such a burden.

With this reminder in mind, Improver carried her movement again, following a process: it was good, smooth and “it just happened”!

From the general to the specific

We started by working on a general level with the head∕neck relationship as FM Alexander said that what we do with that relationship either helps us to move or gets in the way of our movement. This general work solved some of Improver’s issues.

Some more specific work with the arm and more verbal interactions brought about changes that allowed Improver to perform a different movement while bringing her arm forward.

We talked about some ideas such as the different joints in the arms; where does the arm connect with the body. These ideas brought about a different understanding. This new understanding translated into new ideas. And these new ideas brought about a different movement together with some release in the upper thoracic area.

Improver brought her arm in front of her at shoulder level one more time, she mentioned her ‟movement felt different, was different, was simpler and neater”.

An improvement and a success to take and use beyond the session

Improver, through our interactions and work together, put in place a process which brought about a new movement pain free, easier and simpler. This was a success, and she found this new movement ‟fascinating”.

Improver is supporting her own wellbeing.

She can now transfer this knowledge to other everyday life movements: reaching into a cupboard, reaching for a book, putting her palms against a wall, exercising, etc.

This may be of interest to you

Where do our arms attach on our body?

Bringing your arm forward at shoulder level

When a Wellbeing Session is a Safe Place
(May 2021)

Illustration: a distressed woman; message 'you are safe here'; arrows
						scaled up with the word better
Illustration: a wellbeing session can be a safe place

Wellbeing sessions have a way of helping us find ourselves in the present. As you know, there are different kinds of wellbeing sessions and you have to find something that is for you. Today, I write about how sometimes a reflexology session can be a safe place.

Vignette 1: Bad meeting

One time, a wellbeing improver arrived for her reflexology session. The first thing she said after I welcomed her was something like I am so glad I am here. I knew I would need my reflexology session. My meeting at school went as bad as expected. The situation was fraught and there was some underlying anger.

My wellbeing improver was clearly upset. Furthermore, her shoulder blades were throbbing as a result of the stress she was under. She settled into her session rapidly.

When she left, wellbeing improver:

did not feel so bad and she was calmer; she also looked more peaceful. Her reflexology session brought her emotions under control and helped her put things into perspective so that she would be able to cope at home.

her shoulders did not feel so jammed. There was a decrease of physical discomfort, brought about by a strong emotional response to a situation. This also helped with the emotional pain she was going through.

Wellbeing improver knew she might find it difficult to deal with her emotions. This was true and she had planned to use her reflexology session as a tool to be able to cope better with her situation. There is a proactive way of knowing what reflexology can do for her and of using it to deal with life better.

Vignette 2: Upsetting news

One day, a wellbeing improver called. She wanted to know if I could see her straight away. I was able to and I could hear she was upset. She was given some bad news: she had just heard she had lost her baby. Hearing such a thing is always very hard, especially when, as a mother, she did not suspect anything was wrong. To compound it all, she had to go for a procedure later on in the week unless she miscarried before.

Having found previous treatments so beneficial, I somehow instinctively knew what I needed at that crushing time. Reflexology really helped me cope with all I had to face, and it was enhanced by Sylvie's natural compassion. You may forget what someone has said but not how they made you feel.

She was relieved I was able to see her. The reflexology session was entirely designed to calm her down and relax her. At the end of our work together, wellbeing improver had calmed down, was more composed and more relaxed in her frame of mind.

She knew the coming days would be hard. She now felt she could go home able to see and tend to her two young children

Vignette 3: Some time down the line

Four years ago, I gave reflexology to another wellbeing improver. She said she was in a bad place and could be emotional when expressing her concerns. She was always more relaxed and more serene at the end of her time with me and, gradually, she felt better and better physically and emotionally.

She liked reflexology as a safe touch and was feeling a connection as if I was touching her inside . She also liked our friendly talks.

She moved away and we reconnected recently via video conference and telesessions.

She told me recently: I do not know if you realise that when I met you, you saved my life .

It was also important to me that you were happy to chat through the session. As I lived alone, and at that point in my life, very lonely and unhappy our sessions provided an added benefit for me – they contributed to my mental wellbeing.

The pain and the issues did not go away but a safe place was offered to take a step

In these real-life stories, none of the issues went away, none of the mental pain went away.

What their reflexology sessions did was to offer these three wellbeing improvers a safe place for them to be themselves and to find a kind of anchor for them to move forward one step.

That one step was enough for the three of them to be the starting point they needed. I always find it very humbling when wellbeing improvers have that kind of trust in myself and the services I offer.

ALERT! ALERT! My back is killing me!
(June 2021)

Illustration: My back is killing me!
Illustration: My back is killing me!

Are you familiar with such a question?

Do you remember hearing or saying MY [fill in the blank] IS KILLING ME?

There could be a number of body parts that we could use to fill in the blank.

A few thoughts come to mind when hearing such a statement. It might be: I hope it’s not too painful; can I help? Can you cope?

When asked to grade on a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) my [x] is killing me, answers very often vary between 5 and 10. A rating is very personal and my 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 might not be your 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10. The important thing is that whatever ‛is killing me’ can be rated by an individual and that ‛pain to lot of pain’ is an ALERT.

What do figures tell us?

You are very likely to have said ‛My back is killing me!’ at some point in your life as more than 80 per cent of the general population suffer from back pain during their lives, the same proportion of us getting a cold. In 2019, 16.9% of people in England were estimated to be suffering from back pain (Statistica).

The total cost of chronic back pain to the economy is estimated at over £10 billion per year.

Beyond those figures, what matters to us is the effect back pain has on our everyday life.

Vignette: Nose at carpet level

For years, at intervals, I got stuck, unable to unfold myself - literally my nose at carpet level while getting up the stairs ‒ and in pain. It got to the point where the low back pain episodes would recur too often.

I consulted GPs, specialists, had X‑rays and scans done. Nothing was structurally amiss. Nowadays, people with low back pain are dissuaded from having scans and x‑rays because a structural abnormality does not equate back pain and vice versa: back pain does not equate structural abnormalities.

My getting stuck was all down to me! I was moving too much!

I had an introduction to the Alexander Technique (not in connection with back pain) and understood that bending forward and bending backward at the same time meant I was moving too much and that I was creating stiffness. My getting stuck was all down to me.

I have been working with this idea for over 8 years now.

Do I still have back pain? Yes

Have I ever been stuck as I used to? No

Do I continue improving? Yes

Does this improvement require work on my part? Yes

What do we know and what we do not know about back pain?

Lower back pain is more than just a mechanical dysfunction and psychosocial factors are extremely important as well.

Causes could be of a different nature: traumatic, not traumatic, postX‑traumatic, linked to a systemic condition, linked to malignancy or be unknown.

The cause of most back pain is unknown and cannot always be tied to a specific cause. There are gaps in our knowledge for the time being.

Most back pain does get better. It just takes a little time.

It is always recommended to seek medical advice to check things out.

Let’s stop and consider what we are doing

It pays to heed it and what our body is telling us.

It pays to stop and consider it.

It pays to find out whether or not we (AS I WAS and still am from time to time), yes WE, could be creating or making our pain worse.

The latter, though it is painful and no denying the pain, could be a blessing in disguise: if we are creating our pain or making it worse, then we know that if we change what we are doing there could be less to no pain.

So, if you have a whatever ‛is killing you’, consider that this is an alert, and that part of the solution might lay in your hands.

Enable yourself

There are a few actions we can all take to help ourselves:

It is important to be mobile and keep moving; walking is recommended.

It is important to continue with your activities.

Relaxation is encouraged, especially in the acute phase (why not try massage, reflexology, meditation, etc. or a combination).

Learn to move differently following a process to avoid finding yourself in the same situation a few weeks or months down the line.

You might want to look at some research:

Reflexology and back pain

The Alexander Technique and back ache (scroll down you will find the heading #1: It helps with back pain)

NICE and back pain


Reflexology puts a sparkle in her eyes
(July 2021)

Illustration: Pictures of sad eyes and eyes with a sparkle in them
Illustration: Reflexology brings a sparkle in her eyes

I met my Wellbeing Improver in July 2012. She was 83 at the time. Over the years she had a few operations and broke a few bones. After 55 years, she was still experiencing pain in her coccyx bone. She had diabetes that was under control and felt she was generally in good health.

Initial issue: pain in the leg

Wellbeing Improver had a lot of pain in her right leg and physiotherapy was not recommended for her. She was ‑ and still is ‑ under the care of a physician. She informed her GP she was having reflexology sessions and the GP said it was ok.

As an older lady, I recommended that we started with 30-minute sessions. This had been so ever since apart from the occasional 1h session.

After her first 4 sessions, she was experiencing relief for up to 2 to 3 days and then pain was at a manageable level with the painkillers. After a couple of months, she started not taking so many pain killers, first at night and then during the day. She had more mobility, was able to go out for walks and was doing more at home.

Maintaining her health

Wellbeing Improver found her reflexology sessions were helping with her leg problem AND also other niggles she had.

I have known Wellbeing Improver for 9 years now. We have worked together every single year since then for her general wellbeing and also for more specific issues and even some emergencies.

She needed help after falling outside her front door and, as a result, experienced pain across her lower back and coccyx. Having bursitis in both legs, she would and is still does experience pain in her right leg at times and we manage to bring it down from pain to discomfort. She was diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) in 2013 and had several chest infections; reflexology, along with conventional medicine, helped her on her way to recovery. She also has had oedema in her legs.

Less discomfort, not a cure

Over recent years, regular reflexology sessions have allowed Wellbeing Improver to cope better with two health issues.

One of them is oedema in her lower legs. Reflexology Lymph Drainage helps keep the swelling down. Her legs are not so heavy and so numb which gives her more mobility and more balance.

The other one is a breathing issue. After her sessions, she breathes deeper and is not so out of breath. Relaxation of the rib cage means that more air is going in, which helps with getting oxygen to the organs in the body.

Wellbeing care that has changed throughout the years

My sessions, and how I design them, take into account what any Wellbeing Improver tells me before and throughout a session as far as pressure, techniques or sensitivity (and sometimes pain) is concerned. Working together prevents the Improver’s body to go into stress mode.

Depending on a Wellbeing Improver’s state of health and circumstances, I adjust the pressure, and sometimes completely change my session plan.

During reflexology sessions I always aim to work generally before working on specific issues as reflexology rebalances the different systems in the body. This has been particularly important for this Wellbeing Improver as a general rebalance of the systems took care of some specific issues.

Sessions have had to be adapted and the touch very light as after she had to go to hospital and was so unwell. This is also true right now as she has very sensitive legs and has lost a lot of confidence as a result of being home bound during the pandemic for such a long time.

It is always a joy to see her at the end of her session more alert and with a sparkle in her eyes.

You might be also interested in finding out more about Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD)

Everyday life: screwing or unscrewing the top of a milk bottle or a carton of juice
(August 2021)

Illustration: Pictures of people's hands screwing or unscrewing the
					top of a bottle or carton
Illustration: Screwing or unscrewing the top of a bottle or carton

A lot of us screw and unscrew tops on milk bottles and fruit juice∕drink cartons of all sorts. We do it with our eyes closed, sometimes literally. Have we ever stopped to think or consider what we are doing?

A snippet of life

A few years ago, I was brought back to the basics by a two-year-old. I was observing her, stood on a kitchen chair, poised and daintily screwing the top of a milk bottle. She did such a great job, and it was so elegant, graceful and simple.

Quite different from my performance actually: I performed ‑ and still do ‑ that everyday activity numerous times over the course of my day. However, my performance was a far cry from that graceful and simple movement.

So, I went back to the basics and reasoned out what was involved in screwing a top on a bottle or carton.

What is involved in screwing a top on a bottle or carton?

We, as individuals, as our self, are involved on a general level in such an activity. More specifically, our arms and hands and fingers are involved.

The next step is to think things through and to find out what we do generally with ourselves and then what we do specifically with our arms, hands and fingers.

To be able to screw the top on a bottle, we reach for the cap on the bottle.

Then, we apply pressure so that, while moving our fingers, we take with us the top in a circular manner.

We stop the pressure on our fingers once we overcome resistance as this allows the top to move.

Let’s make an experiment

With this in mind, let’s make an experiment and let’s screw a top on a bottle. How did you do? Was it the same or was it different from what you usually do? If so, how?

Now let’s consider a few more things

To start with, how do you hold your hand?

Did you know how much force you were going to apply on the top even before you performed the activity? Please, avoid thinking that you know. Avoid assuming, your movement will be more fluid.

Did you gradually apply pressure on the top? Did you stop applying pressure once the pressure applied was enough for the top to move?

Did you move your fingers which in turn move the top (which is different from moving the top).

Let’s experiment again

Let’s experiment one more time bearing the above ideas in mind.

How did you do this time? Was it the same? Was it different? How so?

How can such a process help?

There are advantages to going through a reasoned consideration about how we move in everyday activities such as screwing a top on a bottle or carton. Here are a few:

It helps in everyday life

The movement is easier

The movement is simpler

We do not use so much energy, so we are less tired

It is rewarding; did you by any chance smile at the outcome during the second experiment?

In that sense using a process is stimulating and keeps us on our toes as we go through the reasoning of what is involved ‑ and no more ‑ in performing such everyday activities such as screwing a top on a bottle or a carton.

High anxiety levels
(September 2021)

Illustration: Word anxiety on scrabble tiles and gauge
Illustration: High anxiety levels

Wellbeing improver is a female in her 70s. Due to physical and emotional health issues her anxiety levels were very high when we met. The lockdowns had exacerbated her anxiety to the extent that she seldom went out. Also, she found she had difficulty helping her daughter out with her grandchildren, a task she usually relished.

A few words about anxiety

Anxiety is an intense apprehension that may or may not have an obvious cause. It affects more women than men. It is a mental health dis-ease that can translate into physical symptoms.

Possible symptoms are headaches, abdominal cramps, frequent urination, sweating, flushing, being on edge, inability to concentrate, worrying thoughts, disturbed sleep patterns. It can also lead to comfort eating, which, as we know, can lead to other difficulties.

Anxiety has a way of feeding itself. Therefore, when we suffer from it, we find ourselves caught in the proverbial vicious circle. Anxiety manifestations are an ALARM our body is sending to us.

Our work together

Wellbeing improver decided to help herself and to have reflexology sessions which her health plan refunds up to a set amount a year*.

During her first session, wellbeing improver reported noticing sensations in her body and head. She soon noticed that she her breathing had greatly improved becoming more even and calm. She stated that her legs felt good, and they were less tense and achy.

This was a good start and an important outcome of our session together: she was no longer so numb and was noticing tension ebbing away. She felt so much better from this one session that she said: it was a miracle!.

Reflexology works on rebalancing the different systems in the body and is a gentle way to bring about relaxation on a physical, mental and spiritual level.

We worked together for several months, first on a weekly basis, then fortnightly and progressing only when she needs it. For most of the time, she has not symptoms at all of anxiety and when she does get a symptom, she can usually self-manage it. So, now she is coming occasionally.

Our interactions were always an exchange where the wishes and the likes of Wellbeing Improver were taken into consideration. Furthermore, she had the choice to accept or reject any suggestions made. Consequently, she was in control of her needs being met.

Throughout our sessions, the general wellbeing of Wellbeing Improver steadily improved. There were also more specific niggles such as pain in the knee, strain in the throat which got looked into in the context of the general.

It was not all a calm sailing

Not all the weeks in-between sessions were good, and anxiety reared its head at times when Wellbeing Improver had to face anxiety-prone situations such as going to the dentist. A reflexology session helped immensely as she commented: very calm and restful breathing; it has been the first time for a week. I am a whole different person.

There was yet another hiccup down the line at the prospect of meeting someone when I was told my anxiety is back. True it “was back” but NOT at the levels of anxiety experienced at the start. The symptoms were not as strong, and she recovered more quickly. She chose to have a further reflexology session to give herself an added boost.

Here are a few benefits Wellbeing Improver experienced throughout our work together:

Calmer and deeper breathing

Much more relaxed

Ankles less swollen

Legs less tensed and achy

Neck and shoulders more relaxed

Nervousness experienced during the night abated

Sleeping longer, sounder, and deeper

No comfort eating so she has lost one and a half stone in weight

More energy

She said I feel like a different person

All these improvements meant she gained confidence and started going out on long walks. Moreover, she was able to help out with the grandchildren again. In addition, she got to enjoy singing again without any strain, and for longer periods as her throat was 80% better. This brought her a lot of joy and pleasure.

Manageable and improving

Wellbeing Improver’s anxiety levels are down at a level that she can self-manage. Her niggling pains and aches are manageable, some have disappeared. She will continue to improve over time and thus be able to enjoy life better.

This may be of interest to you

Reflexology sessions can be refunded

When a wellbeing session is a safe place

Feeling anxious and dizzy

Hips! Hips! Where are you? (October 2021)

Illustration: 3 illustrations for what we mean by 'hips'
Illustration: 3 possible answers for where are your hips

Asking Where are your hips in a group is interesting and always a source of fun. Such a question paves the way to a debate as more than one answer is usually put forward.

One question and 3 possible answers

Answer 1: ‛The put‑your‑hands‑on-your‑hips’ hips

We all know the gesture! It might remind us of someone frustrated or a bit annoyed.

Or we might have been asked to put our hands on our hips in a gym or yoga class.

Answer 2: ‛the measure‑your‑hips’ hips

Those ‛hips’ are used to fit clothes or to check on weight, for example.

In this frame of reference, hips are below the waist and are wider than our waist.

They vary from one person to another and it is even possible to find information about the different types of waists.

It is measured at 7 or 8 inches ∕ 17.5 to 20 cm below the waist

Answer 3: the ‛space‑between‑2‑bones’ hips

In the ‛space‑between‑2‑bones’ hips, there is an empty space between the acetabulum (a rounded cavity in the hip bone) and the femur (the bone in the thigh). This space is called the acetabulo femoral joint. This joint is one of the joints in our legs.

Where do we move from?

So, for the question, where are our hips?, we have 3 possible answers. The next question is: Are these three possible answers going to be helpful for when we move?

When we move, when there is a displacement of one body part in relation to another one, the only ‛hip’ that can be involved in movement is answer number 3: the ‛space‑between‑2‑bones’ hips. The hip joint is a space that allows all kinds of movements: extension, flexion, rotation, adduction, abduction. This mobility is very useful in everyday life as well as in skill-based activities.

Why is it important to know where we are made to move from?

Knowing and understanding that we move from the acetabulo femoral joint and not from the hip bone or the hip for clothes fitting has a functional and a practical importance.


Having an accurate idea of where our hip joints are means we are moving from where we are made to move from. It also means we are not moving from some other place.

True, there are different ways of moving about. Are they all as efficient as each other though?


This anatomical knowledge can have a significant impact on how we move in everyday life activities: bending forward, sitting, walking and for some of us, even sitting.

Moving from where we are meant to move could lead to:

More mobility and more flexibility

Increased energy and stamina

How can we learn to move differently?

We all tend to move according to ideas we have about how we move, our own conceptions. Revisiting our ideas can lead to a review of them and even a complete change in ideas.

Changing our ideas about movements will lead to a change in the way we move. It is very likely to take a little bit of time as we tend to not give much thought about how we move.

Telewellbeing sessions (November 2021)

Illustration: animation of being balanced
Illustration: Towards being balanced

I have the privilege and pleasure of working on a weekly basis with Wellbeing Improvers during telewellbeing sessions.

What do Wellbeing Improvers like about their sessions?

Slightly dubious to start with but wanting to get out of their own personal rock‑bottom situation, Wellbeing Improvers have come to enjoy meeting for their weekly telewellbeing session. Here are some of the positive points for them:

The taking place of a recurrent event they can join in;

The routine aspect of some of the experiments we do during the sessions: the beginning and the end. They are able to notice the difference between then and now and are happy to gradually add complexity to those experiential routines;

The new experiences that pepper the sessions on a regular basis. As they progress through their sessions, a new experiment brings some anticipation and the challenge of not knowing where the new experiment is going to lead them to;

The knowledge they will have fun with themselves and with the other participants.

I am looking forward to the sessions every week. I do like making experiments and benefit from them as far as mind relaxation and a greater mobility in the neck and joints are concerned.

What are Wellbeing Improvers finding out?

The Wellbeing Improvers taking part in these telesessions have rapidly noticed that:

They usually sleep well the evening of the wellbeing session;

As we perform experiments throughout the sessions, we are not trying to ‛fix’ anything there is no pressure whatsoever, and there is no ‛right’ or ‛wrong’, simply a curiosity about the outcome of an experiment;

They find out improvement in themselves on a regular basis. They find themselves on a ‛more’ ladder, which is very satisfying and rewarding;

They have lightbulb moments about something that has sometimes been discussed for several weeks

I like the beginning routine of my wellbeing sessions for the relaxation and joy it brings me. I like experimenting with movements in the neck, and especially noticing when my movements glide in harmony. I am surprised at how relaxed I am after each session and could really go to sleep after them! My wellbeing sessions bring me not only physical relaxation (which is why I started with them) but also a mental and psychological relaxation. I started with a wellbeing of 4 out of 10; 6 weeks down the line my wellbeing is 7 out of 10.

What more do Wellbeing Improvers find out?

At times, one Wellbeing Improver will report an unexpected outcome of their wellbeing session(s), such as:

They notice change in their fellow Wellbeing Improvers; after a while, they come to the conclusion that if the other Wellbeing Improvers improve and it is noticeable, it must be the case for them as well, which is absolutely true;

They are no longer on the verge of gouging out the eyes of their co-workers or their spouse; as phrased, it helps tremendously, even though I still get impatient with them!;

They can now drink out of a bottle without choking themselves; I have not been able to do that, like for ever; and I just grabbed a bottle of water and drank!;

They can meet with a relative who regularly digs at them; they have become more detached about the situation and think about it this way: my relative is not nice. I know. It’s her opinion, I do not have to react with a physical behaviour and I do not have to agree.

As a practitioner, I love hearing about the changes the Wellbeing Improvers notice about themselves and the others in the group ‑ and even about me! Acknowledging about them aloud, sometimes makes the inkling of a change real and even makes a change more real somehow. And the beginning of a change will bring more in its wake. It is true that There may be many more steps to go, but you can take comfort that you're making real progress in the right direction. (Heath)

I will finish this post with this anecdote of a Wellbeing Improver

I have an anecdote to tell. At the beginning of the week, I went to buy a 12.5 kg bag of dog food. I carried it in my little muscled arms to the car. On my way I started thinking: my arms are carrying the bag; do I need to tense my hands so much? I thought about the process and…. with my little muscled arms, I carried to the car a 12.5 kg bag of dog food somewhat lighter! I started giggling – and must have looked like a lunatic to others ‑ thinking that Sylvie was intruding in my thoughts!

Where do our arms attach on our body? (December 2021)

Illustration: skeleton with arms
Illustration: drawing of the bones of the thoracic cage and humerus

A very usual answer

To answer the above question, let’s first define a few things. We consider that the body is composed of the head, neck and trunk and that the limbs are what we call the arms and the legs.

The usual answer to the question where “does our arm attach to your body” is that the arm starts at, what is commonly referred to as, the shoulder (or anatomically the gleno-humeral joint).

We are familiar with the gleno-humeral joint as it allows us a variety of movements

flexion and extension (arm above the head and arm alongside body and slightly behind) in the sagittal plane;

abduction (arm taken on the side) and adduction (arm brought back along the body) in the frontal plane;

internal and external rotation (rotation of the humerus inside the joint towards or away from the body) in the transverse plane;

horizontal flexion and extension (arm taken across the body and arm brought back and to the side at shoulder level) in the transverse plane;

circumduction (shoulder circles).

A shift in our understanding

Should we look at a skeleton or at an anatomy book we will notice a few things about the gleno-humeral joint:

it is shallow (the major binding is muscular);

it does not attach to our trunk.

This being the case, our ‛arm’ does not attach to our body and cannot start at the gleno-humeral joint, the space between the glenoid fossa (gleno) of the scapula, or shoulder blades, and the humerus (humeral).

The connection between our arms and the body or trunk happens towards the middle of our body with the collar bone (clavicle) and the breastbone (sternum), hence the name sterno-clavicular joints. In a way, our arms ‘hang’ onto our body and we also move from our sterno-clavicular joints, something we often forget. Furthermore, there is also a connection between the rib cage and the shoulder blade at the back. For the arm to move freely, there needs to be movement in that connection too (as well as in a few more we will not mention here).

What does this mean for our ‛arm’?

So, we can see that what we usually term the ‘arm’ does not ‛attach to the body’ at the gleno-humeral joint but that it connects at the sterno-clavicular joint as well as at the back of the rib cage. It then means that the ‛arm’ is much ‛longer’ than what we usually conceive of. It also means that we have more joints in the arm than we thought we did, the ‛shoulder’ joint being one of serveral.

The repercussions of our shift in understanding

Considering we are moving from the sterno-clavicular joint and not only from the gleno-humeral joint has positive effects as, very often, allowing moving from that joint frees up the ‛shoulder’. It also has an effect on the rib cage and hence on breathing.

Furthermore, our arms are, in a way, hanging on our body and the scapulae are part of the ‛longer version of the arms’ (or shoulder girdle) and not part of the rib cage though it is true that they follow the trunk.

What is in an arm?

We can see that each arm is made up of a few bony structures. How many depends on our concept of ‛arm’.

If we think that our arm connects to the body at the sternum: a clavicle, a scapula, a humerus, a radius, an ulna, the bones of the wrist, the metacarpals and the bones of the fingers.

If we think that it connects to our body at the shoulder joint: a humerus, a radius, an ulna, the bones of the wrist, the metacarpals and the bones of the fingers.

Consequently, it is important to understand what a person means when they talk about their arm. Depending on which structures they involve in their arm, they will think differently and as a result they will move differently.


Gently bring your upper arm on the same level as your ‛shoulder’; extend your forearm. Now, extend the whole arm reaching out and thinking that you are moving from the sterno-clavicular joint. Reach out for a couple of second and see if you notice any difference.

Now, experiment again, as well as thinking that you are moving from the sterno-clavicular joint, consider that you are moving from the back of the ribcage as well.

What did you notice?

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Vignette: Everyday life: Bringing your arm forward at shoulder level

The other end of the lorgnette: Seeing things differently

May 2021

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June 2021

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July 2021

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August 2021

seeing things differently
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September 2021

seeing things differently
Illustration 5 (September 2021) of seeing things differently

October 2021

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Illustration 6 (October 2021) of seeing things differently

November 2021

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December 2021

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May 2021

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June 2021

Quote by G. B. Shaw
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July 2021

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August 2021

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September 2021

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Man's Supreme Inheritance, Alexander, FM [1910] 1996, Sixth edition reprinted with minor corrections December 2002, Mouritz.
This page was last modified on Mar 28 2023 2:08pm