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Are you suffering from Shoulder pain? Have you had a prior shoulder injury or rotator cuff injury? Have you recently recovered from a frozen shoulder but can’t achieve the last few degrees of range? OR are you just looking at improving your shoulder movements and range?
If so, then read on for some exercises to assist with increasing your shoulder mobility.

The shoulder joint also known as the glenohumeral joint is a ball and socket joint.  This complex joint is one of the most mobile joints in the body. The movements that occur in this joint are:

  1. Flexion – Arm moving forwards and up towards the head
  2. Extension – Arm moving straight backwards, away from the body
  3. Adduction – Arm moving towards the midline/ across the body
  4. Internal Rotation – Rotating the shoulder inwards so that the thumb is pointing towards the midline
  5. External Rotation – Rotating the shoulder outwards so that the thumb is pointing away from the midline.

Mobility V/S Flexibility?

Mobility refers to the ability of a joint to move actively through a range of motion.
Mobility requires both flexibility and strength. Whilst people mistakenly use these terms interchangeably and flexibility is a component of mobility, they are in fact not the same thing.

Flexibility refers to the ability of a muscle to temporarily lengthen. Flexibility is passive.

Why is it important to work on shoulder mobility?

Mobility is important to maintain joint health. Our ability to move without pain or restrictions means we can easily perform our daily activities and strength train. If you have limited mobility, it may lead to compensatory patterns which further predisposes your body to injuries.  As most movements of the upper limb involve the shoulder joint, it is important to ensure shoulder mobility is not compromised.

What influences shoulder mobility?

  • Scapula movements
  • Glenohumeral joint movement (Shoulder joint movement)
  • Thoracic spine (mid-back) mobility

A compromise of either of these along with their surrounding musculature will have an impact on the mobility of the shoulder joint.  Here are some exercises you can try to work on the mobility of your shoulder joint:

Please note, all exercises should be pain free. If you are suffering from pain with movements or are unsure about the exercises, please consult your Physiotherapist before attempting them. Please perform all movements SLOWLY. Sudden entry/ exit of certain positions can result in muscle spasms. Suggestions by our Physiotherapist in Singapore centre:

1) Thoracic Rotations against the wall

1. Start in a half kneeling position next to a wall, with your left hip and knee bent at 90 degrees, out in front of you.
2. Place a block or cushion between your left knee and the wall
3. Have your Left arm extended out resting on the wall at 90 degrees
4. Have your Right hand touch your left palm
5. Ensuring the hips stay pointing forward, rotate through the midback to bring your right arm across, aiming for the wall behind you
6. Return back slowly to have your palms touching again

7. Repeat x10 on each side
* Ensure your back IS NOT arching
* Ensure the movement comes from the mid-back, NOT the lower back or hips
* Ensure you ARE NOT leaning back
* Move into and out of each rotation SLOWLY. Sudden movements can result in muscle spasms.
* Move across as far towards wall as your mid-back will allow you – DO NOT push into pain.

2) Wall slides

1. Place your forearms and hands along a wall so that your elbows are bent and your arms point towards the ceiling.
2. Push your elbows into the wall to pull your shoulder blades away from each other as you slide your hands up the wall.
3. Feel an effort in the Serratus Anterior muscle – along the sides of your ribcage.
4. Return to the original position
5. Repeat x10.

6. Do make this more challenging, you can loop a resistance band around your forearm and follow the steps above.

* Ensure back stays flat and neutral throughout the exercise – Do NOT arch the back
* Ensure forearms stay parallel throughout. AVOID flaring out the elbows as you move up
* Ensure shoulders are relaxed. DO NOT shrug the shoulders to lift the elbows.

3) Sleeper stretch – For the back of the shoulder joint

1. Start by lying on your side with the left arm on the bottom.
2. Your bottom arm should be bent at the shoulder, elbow and forearm at 90 degrees – pointing up to the ceiling
3. Use your top arm to gently draw your left forearm towards the bed for an inward stretch.
4. Hold for 15 seconds, repeat on opposite side
*Ensure there is no pinching pain with this
* DO NOT push into discomfort or pain.

4) Shoulder rotation stretch

1. Start by standing straight with a band or belt in your arms at approximately shoulder’s width apart (or slightly wider)
2. Keeping the back flat, bring the band overhead, as far back as your shoulder allows
3. Hold this position for 5 seconds
4. Return band SLOWLY back to the front
5. Repeat x10

* DO NOT bend your elbows
* DO NOT shrug your shoulders
* DO NOT arch your back when elevating yours arms

5 ) Shoulder joint mobility (CARs)

1. Standing up tall, with the back flat raise your left arm up keeping the elbow straight
2. SLOWLY ROTATE the arm moving up towards the ceiling and then backwards into extension.
3. Try to keep the arm pressed as close to the head as possible
4. Finish by bending the elbow and resting the back of your hand on your back.
5. Repeat x 10 on each side.
6. The GOAL is to move the shoulder through its maximum range of movement.

* DO NOT arch the back
* KEEP elbow straight when moving the arm overhead and into extension
* DO NOT push into a painful range.