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Upper Extremity Assessments to Discover Your Shoulders

dr. marcus shoulder speed & agility Feb 18, 2021

The shoulder complex is just that… complex! It is a series of incredibly mobile regions stacked on top of each other in such a way that if there is a significant issue in any one of these regions, the whole thing doesn’t work well. What I want to do with this blog post is give you QUICK and EASY assessments you can do on your shoulder to discover what it can do and what it should be able to do!

  1. Scratch Test


This quick and easy assessment gives us an idea of how well your shoulder can go overhead (flexion) and how well it can go behind you (extension). If you’re having difficulty with either of these movements, make note of which is the most challenging and let's move on to the next test.

  1. External and Internal Rotation Test



Lying down with a towel under your elbow, see how much range you have going backward and forward with your wrist. In total, you should have about 160 to 170 degrees of total motion with the shoulder staying pinned on the table (see how the second image has the patient pinning their shoulder to the table so it doesn’t come up). Typically we see the back of the wrist touching the table when going back and the front side of the wrist nearly getting to the table, for a normal range of motion. If you’re having difficulty with either of these, take note and let's move on to the last assessment. 

  1. Reach, Roll, Lift





Being able to use your shoulder overhead is challenging without the correct musculature in place and ready for action. The “Reach, Roll, Lift” assessment really tests your shoulder’s ability to have good range of motion, as well as good muscle activation to pull your hand off the ground. First, crouch down, then slide your palm across the ground overhead; roll your thumb upward to the sky while keeping your outside of the hand on the ground; finally, pull your thumb and arm to the sky, keeping your arm straight. If this is not possible, make note, and let's move on.

After you’ve done these three assessments, you may have found you are lacking certain fundamental movements of your shoulder that are required for healthy functioning of your upper body. At Athletes’ Potential, we specialize in working with correcting these issues regularly and getting our patients back to the activities they love, fast, and without the need for injections or surgery. 

If you discovered that you are unable to perform any of these three assessments, feel free to reach out to us and schedule a treatment today!

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Thanks for reading,
Dr. Marcus Rein, PT, DPT, CF-L2

Let us help you figure out to live your best active life today! 

 Remember, Movement is Medicine! 

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