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Assessing mobility when moving your arm behind your back

Optimize your arms behind back movement with Lift Clinic’s team of physio, chiro, RMT and strength coaches! 

This post will focus on the assessment techniques used to find the root causes of limitations in the arms behind back movement pattern.

The arms behind back movement is an expression of thoracic spine extension and rotation, as well as shoulder internal rotation and extension ranges of motion. We use this movement for things in everyday life such as grabbing our seat belts or washing our backs! 

This post is a continuation of our blog series on our full body assessment. If you haven’t already, visit our blog page to learn more about how we assess and treat other movements in the body.

When you come in for an intial assessment, we will assess these 10 movement patterns in your body. By finding limitations in these movement patterns and by looking beyond the site of your injury, our clinicians can find the root cause of your pain and bring lasting results.

For any given movement pattern, our treatment approach follows 4 primary steps:

Techniques used to test ranges of motion and find the root causes of limitations

Hands on treatment techniques used to improve & restore limited range of motion

Exercises or self treatments that help maintain the gains made from the reset techniques. 

Exercises that develop strength, resilience, and coordination for the desired movement pattern.

7 assessment techniques to find limitations in the arms behind back movement:

1) Upper extremity pattern one

In the clinic, we refer to the arms behind back movement as upper extremity pattern one (UE1). UE1 is one component of the full body assessment that we perform during every initial appointment. If we find limitations in this movement, we may perform further assessments if we think this is contributing to the client’s pain or injury. Learn more about further assessments below.

2) Lumbar locked rotation

The lumbar locked rotation test is an assessment for thoracic spine (upper back) mobility, which plays an important role when reaching your arm behind your back. By sitting back onto the lower legs and locking the lumbar spine into place, we can isolate rotation in the thoracic spine.

3) UE1 in prone position

Here, we are repeating the UE1 assessment while the client is lying in a prone position (on their belly). This removes the postural requirements of the test. If the client is able to perform this assessment but not UE1 while standing, we can conclude that there is a postural issue contributing to their limitations.

4) Active shoulder extension

An active assessment looks at a client’s ability to move into a range of motion using their own strength. Shoulder extension refers to the movement of your arm backwards as seen in the image to the left. Here, we are looking for 60º of motion.

Book an appointment to optimize your arms behind back movement

5) Passive shoulder extension

Here we are testing shoulder extension range of motion passively. A passive assessment looks at the range of motion of a joint when the movement is performed by the clinician while the client is relaxed.

6) Active shoulder internal rotation

This tests the ability of the client to move into shoulder internal rotation under their own strength. We are looking for 50º of motion.

7) Passive shoulder internal rotation

Here we are testing shoulder internal rotation passively. Significant differences in ranges of motion between an active and passive test can result from limitations in stability or motor control.

What's next?

After a thorough assessment of the arms behind back movement, the next step is to treat the root cause of your limitations so you can get back to 100%. This will consist of a combination of hands-on treatment techniques as well as specific exercises. 

Stay tuned for the next post in the series: Arms Behind Back Resets

See what our clients have to say

Miguel Leon
I went to see Travis after I partially dislocated my shoulder playing volleyball. Travis (being an avid player himself) understood the mechanics and through treatment and rehabilitation exercises has helped me regain my range of motion and strength. He is very knowledgeable and will take the time to explain the reason for the injury and how to prevent it in the future. I would definitely recommend his services, especially if they are volleyball related.
Angela Lo
I had a shoulder injury from a soccer accident, and my nieces introduced me to the Lift Clinic because they both had positive experiences. Thanks to Travis, Max, Henry, Diana, I am making very good progress. I like their approach to care, expertise and 1:1 attention. Travis has been super patient in treating my shoulder through a combination of movement and very effective IMS. He also performed scar tissue releases and now I have much better trunk mobility and breathing capacity (this is amazing!). He explains that my shoulder injury may be more severe because of underlying restrictions and weaknesses. I have been working with Max to condition and gain strength correctly. Max is very knowledgeable and makes training fun. What started off as treatment for an injury has turned into even better mobility to play the sports I enjoy!

Meet Lift Clinic - a team of Vancouver Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and RMT Massage Therapy practitioners who believe in strength and movement for life.

Have pain or movement goals?

Lift Clinic is located in East Vancouver at 4030 Knight St. Our team of Vancouver physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, and strength coaches is ready to help you reach your goals as efficiently as possible! Click Book Now to get started, or Contact Us if you have any questions or would like to speak directly to a Vancouver physio, chiro or RMT about your situation before you book.

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