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Sports Health. 2010 Mar;2(2):94-100.

A randomized controlled single-blinded comparison of stretching versus stretching and joint mobilization for posterior shoulder tightness measured by internal rotation motion loss.

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Via Christi Sports Medicine, Wichita, Kansas ; Wichita State University Department of Physical Therapy, Wichita, Kansas.



Posterior shoulder tightness, as demonstrated by limited internal rotation range of motion, is a suggested factor in many shoulder pathologies. Methods to increase posterior shoulder mobility may be beneficial.


Shoulder internal rotation range of motion will not change with either of 2 interventions: cross-body stretch alone and cross-body stretch plus posterior capsule joint mobilization.


Randomized controlled single-blinded clinical trial.


The study comprised 39 college-age asymptomatic participants (7 men, 32 women) who were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 groups: stretching only (n, 20) and stretching plus posterior joint mobilizations (n, 19). All had a between-shoulder difference of internal rotation of 10° or more. Shoulder internal and external rotation was measured before and after a 4-week intervention period and 4 weeks postintervention. Participants in the stretching-only group performed the cross-body stretch on the limited side. Those in the other group (cross-body stretch plus joint mobilization) were treated with posterior joint mobilization techniques on the limited side.


Overall means for internal rotation of the treated shoulders significantly increased over baseline at the end of the intervention period and at 4 weeks postintervention. External rotation in all shoulders remained unchanged. By the end of intervention, total motion increased significantly from baseline but decreased significantly from the end of intervention to 4 weeks postintervention. Although not statistically significant, the second group (cross-body stretch plus joint mobilization) had greater increases in internal rotation. At 4 weeks postintervention, the second group had maintained its internal rotation gains to a greater degree than those of the stretching-only group.


Internal rotation increased in both groups. Inclusion of joint mobilization in a rehabilitation program created trends toward increased shoulder internal rotation mobility.


Both methods-cross-body stretch and cross-body stretch plus joint mobilization-may be beneficial for those with limited internal rotation range of motion.


joint mobilization; randomized controlled trial; shoulder; stretching

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