The shoulders, specifically, the glenohumeral joints, are typically very mobile joints. They need to move in multiple planes and positions in relation to the body to perform everyday activities.
Even though the shoulders are a common area of mobility, many people will present with limitations in at least one aspect of glenohumeral motion. These limitations can stem from bony abnormalities, joint capsule tightness and soft tissue restrictions.
In the majority of the joints in the body, there is something called a “capsule” surrounding the joint. A capsule is synonymous to a ziploc bag encompassing the joint.
In this capsule, there are “folds” in certain aspects depending on where the arm is positioned. Due to an old injury, surgery, etc., this capsule can become “tight or stiff.”
Now, this is the more common of all three of the factors that can limit shoulder mobility. Excluding clients who are hyper-mobile, the majority of clients and patients have some form of increased soft tissue tone in one if not more areas of their body.
At the glenohumeral joint, there are a few “big” than can contribute to limited shoulder mobility.
If someone presents with limitations performing some form of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) can be beneficial.
The Latissimus dorsi is a huge contributor to limited overhead shoulder mobility due to its attachment on the trunk into abduction and flexion. It can also limit external rotation as it is a shoulder internal rotator.
Pectoralis minor can limit overhead motion because of its attachment on the coracoid process of the scapula and the rib. Decreased pectoralis minor tissue extensibility can cause an anterior tilt of the scapula limiting humeral motion on the glenoid.
Subscapularis can limit overhead motion due to its attachment on anterior side of the scapula and on the humerus. Teres major attaches on the scapula as well as on the humerus and can limit overhead mobility as well.
Infraspinatus and Teres Minor limit internal rotation of the shoulder due to its attachment points on the humerus and scapula.