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Reaching Without Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain with reaching behind the back or overhead is one of the most common problems we see in our clients.  The location of pain is often in the front part of the shoulder or deep inside the joint.  There are many muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bursa that pass through the shoulder joint and the exact tissue that is the source of pain varies from person to person.

Common diagnoses associated with this type of shoulder pain include frozen shoulderrotator cuff tears/tendinitisbicepital tendinitisimpingement syndromelabral tears, and shoulder arthritis.

To obtain an accurate diagnose, an examination would be needed.  Although there are differences in how we treat each of these conditions, we’ve found that common limitations exist when it comes to reaching overhead, reaching behind the back, and shoulder pain.

Some factors that contribute to shoulder pain with reaching overhead or behind the back include a muscular imbalance that results in an “anteriorly tilted” shoulder blade.

This may result in pinching and irritation of sensitive tissues in the front of the shoulder as the arm is flexed overhead and extended behind the back.

In many cases, pain with reaching overhead and behind the back is also associated with poor mobility of the lats and the t-spine.  This can be combined with weakness of the lats, rhomboids, serratus anterior, rotator cuff, and lower and middle trapezius muscles.  In addition, if there are imbalances at the core and buttock muscles, posture can be affected which may lead to faulty shoulder mechanics. 

However, the only way to know what is contributing to shoulder pain when reaching overhead and behind the back is to perform a movement assessment.

Once we know what the specific limitations are, our first recommendation that we usually make is to take a short break from reaching activity. This allows for an environment for irritation to settle down and healing to take place. While taking a break usually helps with pain, we know for our patients to get back to using their arms without limitations, we have to address the root of the issue.

When pain and stiffness is found via our assessment, our approach includes manual mobilization to alleviate pain and improve mobility. Pain improvements can be made very quickly with soft tissue mobilization and/or dry needling of the lat, upper trap, and rotator cuff muscles.

If weakness is found, we teach activation exercises to help our clients better engage muscles that are not firing well.  Some of theses muscles include the lower trapezius, infraspinatus, lats, and serratus anterior. Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, our next step is teaching our patients proper mechanics.

When addressed with a thorough physical therapy assessment and plan of care, reaching without shoulder pain is possible. However, any sort of repetitive activity with poor mechanics can develop into a more serious shoulder condition.  If you have shoulder pain when reaching overhead or behind the back, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to be a resource for you. 

We have a free guide on relieving shoulder pain that can give you further insight into shoulder problems and help kick start your recovery.  We are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk about how your pain is affecting you and discuss your treatment options.

If your concerns warrant an in-person consultation, we offer a limited number of free Discovery Visit’s at our office.  This type of appointment of for those who are interested in getting shoulder pain behind them.  It is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your condition, and develop confidence that we can help you. 

If you’re certain that we’re a good fit and ready to book an appointment, you can inquire about cost and availability. We will contact you, answer your questions, and determine if it makes sense to move forward.

If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next steps should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.

Physical Therapist Dr. Tim Varghese

Dr. Tim Varghese

Movement Solutions

"We Help Active Adults, Ages 40-60+ Overcome Pain And Injuries And Get Back To Their Favorite Activities Without Unnecessary Medications, Injections, Or Surgeries."