The Causes of Limited Shoulder External Rotation

Jan 17, 2024

Welcome to IAOM-US, leading experts in Health & Medical, Chiropractors, and Physical Therapy. In this article, we will explore the causes of limited shoulder external rotation and provide valuable insights into how you can overcome this issue to improve your overall health and well-being.

Understanding Shoulder External Rotation

Shoulder external rotation refers to the movement of the upper arm bone (humerus) away from the midline of the body. This movement is essential for various activities, such as throwing, reaching for objects, and performing exercises that engage the shoulders effectively.

However, individuals may experience limitations in shoulder external rotation, which can significantly impact their daily activities and athletic performance. Identifying the causes of limited shoulder external rotation is crucial in determining the appropriate treatment approach to restore optimal shoulder function.

Common Causes of Limited Shoulder External Rotation

1. Muscular Imbalances: Muscular imbalances around the shoulder joint can contribute to limited external rotation. Additionally, tightness in certain muscles, such as the infraspinatus and teres minor, can restrict the range of motion.

2. Shoulder Impingement: Shoulder impingement occurs when the space between the acromion (a bony process of the shoulder blade) and the rotator cuff tendons narrows. This narrowing can lead to compression and irritation, causing limited shoulder external rotation.

3. Rotator Cuff Injuries: Injuries to the rotator cuff, specifically the infraspinatus and teres minor muscles, can result in limited external rotation. Tears, strains, or inflammation in these muscles can affect their ability to generate the necessary force for proper shoulder rotation.

4. Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis): Frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by the stiffening and thickening of the shoulder capsule, leading to limited range of motion and external rotation. This condition often develops gradually, causing discomfort and restricted movement.

5. Instability or Dislocation: Shoulder instability or dislocation can cause limited external rotation due to a disruption in the normal alignment and function of the joint. This condition may result from trauma, overuse, or underlying anatomical factors.

Overcoming Limited Shoulder External Rotation

If you are experiencing limited shoulder external rotation, it is essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor or physical therapist, to determine the underlying cause and develop an effective treatment plan. At IAOM-US, our team of experts specializes in identifying and addressing musculoskeletal issues to help individuals regain optimal shoulder function.

Here are some treatments and techniques commonly utilized to overcome limited shoulder external rotation:

1. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in rehabilitating and strengthening the shoulder joint. A physical therapist will assess your condition and design a customized exercise program targeting specific muscle groups to improve external rotation.

2. Manual Therapy

Manual therapy techniques, such as joint mobilizations and soft tissue manipulation, can help restore normal joint mechanics and increase shoulder mobility. These techniques are often performed by skilled chiropractors or physical therapists.

3. Strengthening Exercises

Specific strengthening exercises are prescribed to address muscular imbalances, enhance stability, and optimize shoulder function. These exercises focus on activating the appropriate muscle groups involved in external rotation.

4. Stretching and Flexibility Exercises

Stretching and flexibility exercises are crucial in addressing tightness and improving the range of motion in the shoulder joint. These exercises target the muscles responsible for external rotation, allowing for increased flexibility and better overall shoulder function.

5. Modalities and Therapeutic Techniques

Depending on your individual needs, various modalities and therapeutic techniques may be utilized to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote optimal healing. These may include ultrasound, electrical stimulation, heat therapy, and cold therapy.


Limited shoulder external rotation can significantly affect your daily life and physical performance. Understanding the underlying causes and seeking appropriate treatment is crucial for overcoming this issue and restoring optimal shoulder function.

At IAOM-US, our dedicated team of professionals in Health & Medical, Chiropractors, and Physical Therapy specializes in identifying and treating musculoskeletal conditions, including limited shoulder external rotation. Contact us today to schedule an appointment so we can help you regain an active and pain-free lifestyle.