Pain while trying to lift your arm out to the side?

I was working with a client the other day who has had years of issues with his shoulder. At seemingly random times, he has found it difficult to lift his arm out to the side. This is a pretty common issue – it might even sound like YOU.

Every time I see this, I think back to the time when my right shoulder would just clunk and snap and pop every time I tried to raise my arm out to the side.

I literally could not lift my hand and arm up to parallel with the floor without having to maneuver through a pretty uncomfortable spot.

The doctors and PTs just said I had bursitis and that the problem would eventually go away if I used my shoulder less and did a bunch of rotator cuff exercises. That may also sound familiar to you if you have shoulder aches and pains. I have had many clients over the years tell me the exact same story.

My problem stuck around for about 9 years before I figured out what to do about it.

In those 9 years, I thought about surgery but never went to do a consult. I did chiropractic and acupuncture, and none of that made a lasting difference.

Eventually I learned how to retrain my shoulders to move better and feel GOOD. Everything I have found useful over the years I put into the Shoulder Fix program.

How can a simple stretch help shoulder pain?

The reason a stretch can make such a difference is because in some ways we are just simple machines. We have cables that operating on our bones. Where bones meet other bones, we have spaces called “joints.” We also are a little more complex because we have software that controls whether or not we can do certain motions. If the cables are put in a non-ideal position or the bones are being put in a non-ideal position, our software can interrupt the movement.

Sometimes the interruption comes in the form of just a sudden stop. Sometimes it comes paired with pain. Sometimes it’s just pain. The point is that these signals mean something is wrong. It doesn’t mean something is HORRIBLY BROKEN. It just means something needs recalibrating.

Unfortunately, the signal that something is wrong is not specific. It’s not spelled out like “YOU NEED TO STRETCH THIS MUSCLE.” You can feel discomfort in the joint, around the joint, in the muscles around the joint (and usually not the muscle causing you the problem, unfortunately!), etc. So while this client over Skype was complaining that his deltoid, supraspinatus, and upper traps were feeling compressed and painful, the real problem is that his anterior shoulder was pulling his shoulder bones into non-ideal positions.

A stretch to try to help restore fuller shoulder range of motion

Over Skype, I don’t have the ability to touch and prod and do anything physically to help him. So I wanted to test a quick stretch that I’ve found to be pretty useful for this situation over the years (and lately I’ve seen a string of these situations!).

After having the guy do this stretch for just 30 seconds, his arm abduction got a lot better.

The stretch is pretty simple and requires no equipment or special gadgetry. You can do this up against a wall.

The goal of the stretch is to hit the biceps and the anterior deltoid (as well as a little bit of the pecs).

You can watch the full video of the stretch here.


About the Author

Matt Hsu is a trainer and orthopedic massage therapist. He fought a long battle with chronic pain all over his body and won. He blends the principles he learned in his journey, empirical observations with clients, and relevant research to help others get their lives back.