In our previous newsletters, we have talked about hip mobility and spinal mobility. We will continue on to discuss shoulder mobility in this newsletters main story, as well as teach you a simple movement to try to test whether your shoulder motion is adequate. In addition, this newsletter will provide you with some dynamic movement exercises to help you work on your shoulder mobility.
To begin with, our shoulders are important for many different tasks from dressing, to washing, to cooking and cleaning, as well as, writing and computer use, and physical activities including a counter movement during walking/running. If you have had a shoulder injury, you will definitely understand the impact on your everyday tasks.
What is considered adequate shoulder mobility? The test we use in office from the Functional Movement Systems screening is called the shoulder reach. To do this at home, wrap your fingers around your thumbs in the palms of your hand. At the same time, bring one arm up and behind your head reaching down your back as far as you can go, while the other arm reaches to the back and up your spine. How far away are your hands from each other? You can have someone observe from behind or you can open your wrapped fingers and see if they can touch. If they can touch or are close to touching, you have adequate shoulder mobility. We actually do a measurement in the office where we measure from the distal wrist crease to the tip of the middle finger. The distance is the allowed distance your hands can be when you reach behind your back with wrapped fists as in the picture below. Then you switch and do the opposite, the hand going behind your head will now go behind your back reaching up and vice versa. Make note if you have pain with this motion.
This is a great test because we are looking at 4 different motions with each arm. When you bring your arm up and behind your neck we are assessing shoulder flexion and external rotation. If you have any issues with these motions, this part of the test will be difficult. With a further shoulder assessment, we can then narrow down the specific motion that gives you difficulty and then assess the muscles that are involved in this function. Problems with the biceps tendon, infraspinatus and posterior deltoid, to name a few, can prevent this motion or be painful on testing. When you reach behind your low back and up your spine we are assessing for shoulder extension and internal rotation. Again, we can identify muscles which may be preventing these motions and then treat accordingly through manipulation, muscle work (stretching, soft tissue work) or through corrective exercises. Please see the mobility exercises further down in the newsletter to work on your shoulder motion.
Another area that we always assess when patients perform poorly on this test is the thoracic spine. In order to reach behind you with your arm, you need to have adequate thoracic spine extension and rotation. What may look like a shoulder injury, may in fact be a thoracic spine mobility issue and not the shoulder at all.
If you have performed these simple tests at home and are concerned about your shoulder mobility, book in with us for a more thorough assessment. You can CLICK HERE to book online.