Why does my shoulder hurt when reaching into the back seat? | Total Performance Physical Therapy

Why does my shoulder hurt when reaching into the back seat?

March 4, 2019

There are often gender specific reasons people come in for therapy.  When dealing with the shoulder, the reason that men usually wind up finally dealing with their shoulder pain is that they are unable to reach into their back pocket to get their wallet.  For women, the reason they finally decided to get their shoulder treated is because they are no longer able to fasten their bra in the back.  In either case, waiting until you are unable to do those 2 tings means that you have waited a long time to get it treated.

Reaching behind your back whether it is to get a wallet or to reach into the back seat or to fasten a bra is a very complex motion at the shoulder.  Most people invent ways to get around the pain associated with this motion by slumping forward.  This allows often for greater range of motion at the shoulder but it also causes compensation and ultimately more problems.

Most people who have pain with moving their shoulder behind them, often report a pinching feeling.  This feeling is because there is actually a muscle, part of the rotator cuff that is being pinched.  If you continue to have the muscle pinch it can also start to tear the muscle.  The more the muscle gets pinched the more likely it is to tear.

To avoid the tearing, you want to roll your shoulders up back and drop them down.  This will allow for the muscle to have space to move.  You may still get the pinching feeling but this is because the muscle has become inflamed and there is no more room for the muscle to move.  But with your shoulders in proper position you are creating less tearing to the muscle.

Posture plays a large part in the shoulder getting better or worse.  Positioning your shoulder in the correct posture, rolling your shoulders up, back and dropping them down allows the shoulder and the muscles to be able to move correctly and how they should be.  If you continue to sit in poor posture while at your computer or while on your phone or during the day, it doesn’t matter what you do your shoulder pain will continue to get worse.

One thing you can do to test if a muscle of the rotator cuff is involved is reach your arm behind you back and place it, palm up on your low back.  If you are unable to this without slumping forward then this is a positive test and you need to have your shoulder treated.  If you are able to place your hand on your low back, palm facing away from the body, but it hurts, this is also a positive test and you need to have your shoulder treated.  Now you should be able to place your hand on your low back and then lift your arm off your back.  If you are unable to lift your arm off your back, this is a positive sign.  This test is testing the rotator cuff and if there is a problem with the rotator cuff, then this test will be positive and you need to get it treated.  This is one of the reasons you can’t reach into the back seat without pain.  And unfortunately this is only the beginning of things you are not able to do.


And it is not something that should be ignored.  What people do not understand is that most rotator cuff tears are not traumatic.  They do not result from lifting a lot of weight being lifted from the floor or some car accident.  Most of the rotator cuff tears that happen are because of a muscle being pinched and that pinching causing small tears.  These tears can eventually cause the muscle to tear completely.

The more you allow the pinching feeling to persist, the more likely this will develop into a massive rotator cuff tear.  If you have a pinching feeling when you reach into the back seat, then you need to have physical therapy to prevent this from requiring surgery.  For rotator cuff therapy in Hatfield, Call Total Performance Physical Therapy.  For rotator cuff therapy in Norristown, call Total Performance Physical Therapy.  And for rotator cuff and shoulder pain therapy in North Wales, call 215-997-9898 and ask to set up a free consultation with a doctor of physical therapy.  Or click here and enter your information for a FREE consultation with a Doctor of Physical Therapy and we will be in touch!