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Loosen up that tight shoulder

Loosen up that tight shoulder

Written by: Paul Kochoa, PT, DPT, OCS, CKTP, CGFI


Recently, I’ve had a spate of patients with shoulder problems ranging from impingement syndromes to labrum tears.  Most of the patients had pain with overhead movements and difficulty with performing exercises and lifting in the gym.  When I looked at all these patients, most of them had classic signs of poor position and poor mobility through the shoulder joint itself.  Before I continue, remember to always get yourself checked out by a medical professional like a physiotherapist, before attempting to fix it yourself.

I’ve covered the shoulder and posture before, and covered how the shoulder is related to other parts of the body, so you should be a little familiar with the message by now.  This time out, we’ll continue with fixing positional faults of the shoulder.

With overhead positions and weight lifting mechanics, the shoulder is always more stable and less likely to pinch other structures in an externally rotated position.  This is a position that you can lose with poor posture or over training the pecs or lats, which can increase your risk for injury.  One of the key faults tends to be a tight pec muscle (pectoralis major or minor).  Tightness in this muscle can prevent that important external rotation and put the scapula in a less stable position.  Here’s how you can fix it:

First, if you experience any pain or numbness/tingling with this maneuver, stop and seek medical attention.  Stretch and mobilize intelligently, get a physiotherapist to evaluate you.

That said, grab a lacrosse ball and a wall.  Face the wall with the shoulder you want to stretch on the wall (works best if you use an outside corner of a wall, that way, you’ll have room for your face and head and just have your chest/shoulder/arm on the wall).  Place the ball on your chest just below the collar bone so that it’s between you and the wall.  Now lean into the ball, applying pressure with your body.  In this position, move your hand out to the side and up as high as you can keeping your palm on the wall, or your thumb side of you hand up.  Move up and down slowly.  You should feel some tightness in certain ranges, but feel no worse when you release the stretch.  Work on your shoulder range for 2-4 minutes.  (You can see this shoulder mobilization in action here.)

Try it out and compare how your shoulder and arm feels afterwards.  It should feel better and be more mobile.  If not, ask a physiotherapist to check you out, your shoulder problems may need more than just some ball work.

If you would like more information, please call Professional Physical Therapy and Training at 973-270-7417.  Our offices are located within the YMCA locations in Madison and Summit, NJ.  You do not need to be a member of the YMCA to visit with us.


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