Atlantic Physical Therapy Center NJ
Atlantic Physical Therapy Center NJ

Improving Mobility to Reach behind your Back


One of the most difficult motions to restore for the shoulder after injury or surgery is reaching behind your back. Whether you are recovering from impingement, rotator cuff repair or frozen shoulder, it is a tough movement for most. A few things I have found to be very helpful in restoring this motion, also known as Functional Internal Rotation (FIR), are below.


#1 Loosen up the back of your shoulder – your posterior capsule.

Pin a lacrosse or tennis ball up against the wall to loosen up this tissue. When the posterior capsule is tight it limits your internal range of motion.

posterior capsule loosen with tennis ball

#2 Stretch your posterior capsule with classic stretches.

The standard cross body post-cap stretch or sleeper stretch as seen below will help improve flexibility.

Posterior Capsule stretch Sleeper stretch

#3 Perform active motion behind the back.

Slow and controlled “subscap liftoffs” will help build up the muscles that help perform the behind the back motion. With your hand behind your back, try to keep your shoulder down while lifting your hand off your back.

Sub scapula liftoff exercise


Test yourself – if you have one shoulder that is more limited in motion than the other look at yourself in the mirror and see how high up your back your “good shoulder” is able to go and compare to how high the more limited shoulder can go before and after the above exercises.

See how high your hand gets behind back!


If things don’t feel right and you continue to have pain come in for an evaluation. Our team of therapists will help restore your mobility and get you back to doing everything you want to do.


Dave Garaffa, PT, DPT, is a Physical Therapist and Clinic Director of the Shrewsbury location of Atlantic Physical Therapy Center. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and TPI Certified to help you improve your golf swing!