If you have trouble reaching up due to shoulder pain, or have difficulty lifting one arm above your head higher than the other arm, it’s possible you have a misalignment in your shoulder. This usually happens because of poor posture or restrictions and often results in pain or decreased functioning of the shoulder.
There is a quick test you can do to see if you have limited shoulder mobility.
Shoulder Mobility Test
• Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
• Put your hands together, lock out your elbows, and reach over your head to see how far you can go.
• Make sure your low back is flat throughout the entire motion.
• If you are unable to touch the floor with both arms while keeping your back flat, you most likely have tight shoulders.
If you have tight shoulders, don’t worry you are not alone. Daily postural habits cause most people to have tightness and restrictions in their shoulders. The good news is there are definitely steps you can take to fix it.
Muscle Release 1
One good way to loosen up the shoulder joint is to roll out your latissimus dorsi and teres major. The latissimus dorsi is responsible for bringing the arm backwards (extension), bringing the arm to the side (adduction), and rotating the arm inwards (internal rotation) at the shoulder joint. The teres major is also an internal rotator and adductor of the arm and helps the latissimus dorsi to extend the arm in a flexed position.
• To roll out these muscles you can place a ball (lacrosse ball, tennis ball, baseball) under your armpit where you feel a muscle bulk.
• Now, with the ball in place, lean against a wall to pin the ball between your muscles and the wall.
• In this position, move your body against the ball until you find a tender or “tight” spot. When you do find this spot, hang out there and move your arm up and down like you are punching the ceiling.
• After about 30 seconds move onto another area and repeat.
Muscle Release 2
Another good way to improve overhead movement is to roll out your thoracic spine (mid and upper back) on a foam roller.
• To do this, lie on a foam roller placed perpendicular to your body with both knees bent with feet flat on the ground.
• Make sure your butt is on the ground and your hands are clasped behind your neck.
• Now roll up and down your entire thoracic spine spending some extra time in areas you feel are tight or restricted. Doing this will improve thoracic extension and ultimately overhead shoulder mobility.
After doing these exercises and releases, go back and re-check to see if your overhead shoulder mobility has improved. Doing this before a workout or during times when you feel shoulder aches will prevent injuring your rotator cuff and increase performance.