Four Tips for Shoulder Pain and Mobility

Decreased shoulder mobility can really put a damper on your lifestyle. It can lead to pain with putting items up overhead, problems putting on/taking off clothes, cause sleeping disturbances, or make it difficult to swat at your kids when they’re fighting in the back seat. If you like to run, lift weights, or be generally active, modifying your movements because of shoulder pain when you’re exercising can also lead to neck pain and headaches.

These are 4 of the best shoulder mobility exercises to give you some quick relief. Clearly, fixing shoulder pain is more complex than 4 exercises, but these will help you begin to address your shoulder pain.​​​​​​​

1. Soft Tissue to The Pec Minor

In many cases, the pec minor can be the root of shoulder dysfunction. It attaches to the ribs and more importantly, the shoulder blade. When the pec minor is restrictive it can keep the shoulder blade from moving freely. This puts the rotator cuff muscles at a disadvantage when it comes to raising your arm. Pressure to the soft tissue in the pec minor area can relieve the scapula from being pinned down and improve shoulder mobility by giving the rotator cuff a break.

See this picture for some tips on how to use a lacrosse ball to get this done.


Pec minor Lacrosse Ball

Place the lacrosse ball over the pec minor (as shown in the top image)

1. Using a yoga block, lay on the lacrosse ball with the arms bent (as if in a push up position)

and turn the torso AWAY to increase the stretch/release.(Image 2)

2. Alternate option - extend the arm that the lacrosse ball is on to increase the stretch. (Image 3) Do this for 90 seconds.


2. Stretch the Pec Minor

The key here is getting the two attachment points of the pec minor as far from each other as you can. It attaches to the front of your shoulder and ribs 3-5 (which are about ⅓ of the way to the bottom of your ribcage). To properly perform this stretch, use a doorway and place your elbow on the frame slightly above shoulder height. Step through the doorway with the same leg and make sure to keep your shoulder down away from your ear. The result should be a strong stretch in the front of your chest and shoulder.

3. Soft Tissue to the Post Cuff

The post cuff is made up of primarily your rotator cuff muscles. These are the muscles that are responsible for the stability in your shoulder and are used for most movements. When they sense that there may be injury to the shoulder, they can tighten up protectively and decrease shoulder mobility. This can also accidentally increase the dysfunction by introducing another mobility restriction. The best tool for this is once again a LaCrosse ball, see the image and description below. You can alternatively use a foam roller by lying on your back on the foam roller and targeting the same spots as in the lacrosse ball image

Self Soft tissue mobilization to posterior rotator cuff / self massage

Lift your involved arm and place the ball between your shoulder blade and arm, pin the ball against the wall using your other arm as a "shelf" for your involved arm to RELAX on. You may massage front to back (laterally), though can also perform "cross-friction" massage to the muscles/tendons in this area by going up/down on them (plucking them like guitar strings), this can take practice knowing where to find these


4. Stretch the Posterior Capsule

The capsule is essentially a Saran wrap around the shoulder that provides stability but it can also get immobile when the shoulder has had inflammation. To perform a posterior capsule stretch place your arm straight out in front of you with your palm up. Use the other hand to pull the elbow in close to your chest and across your body. Be sure to keep the arm you are stretching down.

To bring it all together: If your shoulder hurts try these strategies to get some relief but keep in mind usually when pain starts affecting your shoulder, there’s usually a reason why. There could be a faulty movement pattern, a mobility restriction, or perhaps you just overdid a workout without proper warm up. Make sure you don’t get caught up just chasing the pain and managing with these exercises as spot treatment. If you’re searching for some great shoulder health exercises be sure to email us and we can send them to you.

If you continue having shoulder pain come on in to MMSSPT. We treat athletes from all different backgrounds: golfers with mobility issues, tennis, baseball, lifting, CrossFitters with pain in their front rack - and would be thrilled to help get you back to your sport without pain.

How To Stop Shoulder Pain Without Risking Surgery & While Staying Active


Trupti Mehta, PT, MS, OCS

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