The Effectiveness of Shoulder Stretching and Joint Mobilizations on Posterior Shoulder Tightness

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Clinical Scenario:

It has been suggested that posterior shoulder tightness is a common contributor to shoulder impingement in overhead-throwing athletes. The incidence of shoulder pain in the general population has been reported to be as high as 27%, and as many as 74% of the patients who were seen for shoulder issues had signs of impingement. Particularly regarding physically active adults, shoulder impingement is frequent among overhead-throwing athletes and may lead to lost participation in sport, as well as other injuries including labral pathologies. Therefore, finding an effective mechanism to reduce posterior shoulder tightness in overhead athletes is important and may help prevent impingement-type injuries. Typically, posterior shoulder tightness is identified by measuring horizontal humeral adduction; although another clinical measure that is commonly used is the bilateral measurement of glenohumeral internal-rotation (IR) range of motion (ROM). It is important to note, however, that the measurement of glenohumeral IR ROM specifically aims to identify glenohumeral IR ROM deficits (GIRD). Although GIRD is believed to be a leading contributor to posterior shoulder tightness, this measure alone may not capture the full spectrum of posterior shoulder tightness. While treatment interventions to correct any ROM deficits typically include a stretching protocol to help increase IR, joint mobilizations have been found to produce greater mobility of soft tissue and capsular joints. However, it is unclear whether the combination of both joint mobilizations and a stretching protocol will produce even larger gains of ROM that will have greater longevity for the patient suffering from posterior shoulder tightness.

Focused Clinical Question:

Does the use of joint mobilizations combined with a stretching protocol more effectively increase glenohumeral IR ROM in adult physically active individuals who participate in overhead sports and are suffering from posterior shoulder tightness, compared with a stretching protocol alone?

Harshbarger, Eppelheimer, and Valovich McLeod are with the Dept of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, and McCarty, the Center for Clinical Outcome Studies, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ.