For the general population, there are several common joints that often seem to be lacking adequate mobility. These joints include the thoracic spine, hips, ankles, and lastly, shoulders. You may find that it is difficult to fully reach overhead to place an item on a high shelf, scratch that one itchy spot in the middle of your back, or reach across your body to secure your seatbelt. Although there are multiple reasons why you may be experiencing these difficulties, one contributing factor could be that you are lacking mobility throughout your shoulder girdle. Below I have highlighted a few simple stretches that can performed at home with minimal equipment by individuals of all fitness levels.
Shoulder Flexion Stretch
Shoulder flexion describes when you raise your arm in front of our body and overhead. One simple way to improve your range of motion in this plane is to perform an exercise called a wall walk. In order to perform the exercise, go to a nearby wall, standing approximately 1-1 ½ feet away. Begin to walk your hand up the wall as high as you can in front of your body. Once you reach the top, hold for 10 seconds and repeat for 10 repetitions
Shoulder External Rotation Stretch
External rotation describes outward rotation of your shoulder. If you keep your elbow tucked into your side with your elbow bent to 90 degrees and pull your wrist away from your body, you will be demonstrating external rotation. One easy way to improve your flexibility with this motion is to perform a self stretch with a cane, golf club, or even a broom handle. You will perform this exercise lying on your back with a pillow under your arm. Bring your upper arm approximately 45 degrees away from your body with your elbow bent to 90 degrees while holding the handle of the cane/end of the golf club. You will then use your opposite arm (holding the opposite end of the cane/club) to push the arm you are stretching outward and open up the shoulder. Once you approach your end range, hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
Shoulder Internal Rotation and Extension Stretch
Internal rotation describes the motion that occurs if you keep your elbow tucked into your side, and bring your wrist towards your midsection. Extension describes bringing your arm behind your back. In combination, these motions are useful for tasks including scratching your back, putting on a belt, or tucking in your shirt. You can perform a self stretch for both of these directions using a belt or a towel. Begin by draping a towel or belt over the shoulder opposite to the one that you want to stretch. You can then grab the bottom of the towel/belt with the arm that is being stretching by reaching behind the back. By grabbing the other end of the towel with your opposite arm, you can pull the towel/belt, creating a pulley that allows you to stretch your arm further behind our back. Once you reach your end range, hold for 10 seconds and repeat 10 times.
All of these stretches are easy to complete for people of all fitness levels and with minimal equipment. You should never stretch past the point of pain. If you are encountering difficulty or pain with any of these stretches, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Physical Therapists for questions or concerns. Concerned you may have an underlying injury? Do not forget we offer free injury screens on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:00-7:00pm in both offices. Otherwise, enjoy your new found shoulder flexibility!