Causes of Limited Shoulder External Rotation

Dec 18, 2023

When it comes to maintaining optimal shoulder mobility, limited external rotation can be a frustrating and restricting issue. Whether you're an athlete, fitness enthusiast, or someone experiencing discomfort in daily activities, understanding the causes of limited shoulder external rotation is essential in finding effective solutions. In this article, we will explore the various factors that can contribute to this condition and delve into the role chiropractors and physical therapy play in improving shoulder mobility.

Understanding Shoulder External Rotation

Shoulder external rotation refers to the ability of the shoulder joint to rotate outward. This movement is vital for various upper body activities, such as reaching overhead, throwing, serving in sports, and even basic tasks like putting on clothing or combing your hair.

When the shoulder's external rotation range becomes limited, it can significantly impact your daily life, causing pain, discomfort, and preventing you from performing certain activities. Now let's delve into the possible causes of limited shoulder external rotation.

Common Causes of Limited Shoulder External Rotation

1. Shoulder Injury: Trauma, repetitive strain, or overuse injuries may result in limited external rotation. Common injuries include rotator cuff tears, labral tears, shoulder impingement, and adhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder).

2. Muscle Imbalances: Imbalances in the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, including the rotator cuff and scapular stabilizers, can lead to limited external rotation. Weakness or tightness in these muscles can disrupt the shoulder's biomechanics and range of motion.

3. Joint Restrictions: Joint restrictions can occur due to factors such as inflammation, arthritis, or underlying structural issues. These restrictions can limit the shoulder's ability to externally rotate fully.

4. Postural Habits: Poor posture, such as rounded shoulders and forward head position, can negatively affect shoulder mobility, including external rotation. Prolonged slouching or hunching over electronic devices can contribute to muscle imbalances and restricted range of motion.

5. Scar Tissue: Following a shoulder injury or surgery, scar tissue may form in the joint or surrounding soft tissues. This scar tissue can restrict normal shoulder movement, including external rotation.

Addressing Limited Shoulder External Rotation with Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors specialize in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions, including limited shoulder external rotation. Through a thorough evaluation, chiropractors can determine the underlying cause of your restricted mobility and develop an individualized treatment plan.

Chiropractic care for limited shoulder external rotation commonly involves:

  • Joint Adjustments: Chiropractors use precise manual adjustments to relieve joint restrictions, improve alignment, and restore normal shoulder function.
  • Soft Tissue Techniques: Various soft tissue therapies, such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy, can help address muscle imbalances and release tension around the shoulder joint.
  • Exercise Rehabilitation: Chiropractors may prescribe specific exercises and stretches targeting the rotator cuff, scapular stabilizers, and surrounding muscles. These exercises aim to strengthen weak areas and improve flexibility.
  • Postural Correction: Your chiropractor can provide guidance on proper posture and ergonomics to prevent further injury and maintain optimal shoulder function.

Chiropractic care offers a non-invasive and drug-free approach to address limited shoulder external rotation. By targeting the root cause of the issue, chiropractors can help alleviate pain, improve range of motion, and enhance overall shoulder function.

Enhancing Shoulder Mobility through Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in restoring and enhancing shoulder mobility. A physical therapist will evaluate your condition and design a personalized treatment plan to improve external rotation.

Common physical therapy techniques for limited shoulder external rotation include:

  • Stretching and Range of Motion Exercises: Physical therapists employ specific stretching techniques and exercises that target the shoulder joint and associated muscles to restore and increase external rotation.
  • Strengthening Exercises: Strengthening exercises are tailored to address muscle imbalances and weaknesses that contribute to limited shoulder mobility. These exercises aim to improve overall shoulder stability and function.
  • Manual Therapy: Techniques such as joint mobilization and soft tissue mobilization can enhance joint and soft tissue flexibility, promoting better shoulder external rotation.
  • Modalities: Physical therapy may include the use of modalities like heat, ice, ultrasound, or electrical stimulation to reduce pain and inflammation, facilitating the healing process.

Working with a skilled physical therapist can significantly benefit individuals with limited shoulder external rotation. Through their expertise, they can help you regain freedom of movement, reduce pain, and improve your overall quality of life.


Recognizing the causes of limited shoulder external rotation is the first step towards finding effective solutions. Whether it's a shoulder injury, muscle imbalances, joint restrictions, postural habits, or scar tissue, there are various factors that can limit your shoulder's external rotation range.

Seeking professional help from chiropractors and physical therapists who have expertise in treating shoulder mobility issues can make a significant difference. They will assess your condition, provide targeted treatments, and guide you through rehabilitation exercises to enhance your shoulder's external rotation.

At IAOM-US, we offer a comprehensive approach to improve shoulder mobility, including chiropractic care and physical therapy. Our experienced professionals are dedicated to helping you overcome limitations and achieve optimal shoulder function. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step towards a pain-free, fully mobile shoulder.