Do You Have Shoulder Pain When Reaching Behind You?


UGH. So you’re driving along and reach behind you to grab a bag from the back seat of the car and feel a sharp ache in your shoulder. Or for the last few weeks, ever since playing that tennis game, you’ve had a bit of an ache in your shoulder whenever you try put your seatbelt on, or every time you take your jacket on and off.

Or you have this ache down the side of your shoulder/arm – you can’t quite poke the sore spot but it’s there- this general ache.

And so off you toddle, to your physio to try get rid of this annoying pain and LO AND BEHOLD! They spend the session poking around the back of your shoulder blade. Not the side of your arm where you feel the pain, or the front part or even somewhere deep inside your shoulder where it hurts. And you’re wondering: Do they even know what they’re doing? Didn’t they hear you when you said the pain was on the SIDE or FRONT of your shoulder, not the back? Why aren’t they even touching my arm?

Well first of all – hopefully you’re not thinking any of the above as your physio has hopefully explained exactly why they’re poking around the back of your shoulder to see if they can reproduce your pain. And secondly – the reason is because of a little muscle called INFRASPINATUS.

Your infraspinatus is one of your rotator cuff muscles- one of four muscles that work together to keep your arm in your shoulder socket as you fling it every which way. Infra works more specifically with a couple of the other rotator cuff muscles to externally rotate (think ‘tennis serve’ or ‘stop sign’ position) the arm. If you overuse this muscle you can get referred pain into the lateral (side) aspect of your shoulder, the front of the shoulder and down into the arm.

So how do we fix it?

Well, first we have to try release the trigger points at the back of the shoulder blade (on actual infraspinatus – X marks the spots on the picture above) and then if there’s any weakness we need to re-train the capability and endurance/strength of that muscle by getting your arm used to external rotation again with specific exercises.

What can you do?

Try some self-release techniques. Find a spikey ball and lean up against wall with the ball on the back of your shoulder blade. Roll up and down and when you find a sore spot that refers pain into the front/side of your shoulder and arm – lean back on that point for 5 seconds until the pain dissipates. (*if the pain doesn’t go away then stop doing this and see your therapist instead).

Try some strengthening by doing some thera-band stop sign exercises by tying a band to the doorknob and pivoting on the elbow to externally rotate the shoulder (see below). It’s ok to have a bit of pain when doing this but it shouldn’t worsen as you progress along and shouldn’t linger for longer than a couple of hours after doing the exercises.

If you’re unsure whether this really is causing your pain or want some guided advice and exercises- pop in to see your physio ASAP to get you back to normal function as quickly as possible!

Do you have any aches or pains that you want to get checked out? Book in online here to see one of our Physio's today, or call us (08) 9448 2994.

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