How to Know When to Push a Stiff and Painful Shoulder

If you have ever worked with someone with a stiff and painful shoulder, you know how challenging it can be to gain motion.  Regardless of if this is a postoperative shoulder or someone with adhesive capsulitis, push too hard or too fast often backfires and causes them to get worse!

One of the more common questions I get from students and new clinicians is – “how do you know when to push range of motion.”

Luckily, there is a pretty simple way to knowing when to push a stiff and painful shoulder and when to back off.


Assess End Feel

How to Know When to Push a Stiff and Painful ShoulderIn addition to assessing the quantity of motion, you should also assess the quality of motion.  This is essentially the “end feel,” or the quality of the end range of motion.

Every joint has a normal end feel.  Some common examples are:

  • Boney: Hard end feel of two bones approximating.  Elbow extension is a good example.
  • Capsular or Ligamentous: Often described as stretching a piece of leather.  This is normal joint end feel, such as with shoulder external rotation
  • Muscular: This is more like stretching a piece of rubber, like when stretching the hamstrings
  • Tissue Approximation: When the mobility is stopped because you run out of room to move, such as during elbow or knee flexion.
  • Empty: Pain does not allow you to get to the end of the range of motion, you stop in the middle of the range.
  • Spasm: An abrupt end of the movement that feels as if the person is in pain and guarded.  This feels like the muscles are stopping the motion and spasming.


Don’t Push Through a Spasm End Feel

A simple rule I have always followed and has helped me know when to push motion with a painful and stiff shoulder is to never push through a spasm end feel.

If someone presents with a spasm end feel, your primary treatment objective should switch from trying to gain motion to trying to reduce spasm.  Attempting to push through the spasm almost always backfires.

You’ll know you can push harder when the spasm end feel changes to a capsular end feel.  That’s your cue to get more aggressive.  But…  be careful!  It’s possible to push too hard or too fast again and revert back to a spasm end feel.


Learn How I Treat the Stiff Shoulder

If you are interested in mastering your understanding of the shoulder, I have an amazing sale going on right now for my acclaiming online program teaching you exactly how I evaluate and treat the shoulder!  You can save a HUGE $150 off the normal enrollment fee!

ShoulderSeminar.comThe online program at takes you through an 8-week program with new content added every week.  You can learn at your own pace in the comfort of your own home.  You’ll learn exactly how I approach:

  • The evaluation of the shoulder
  • Selecting exercises for the shoulder
  • Manual resistance and dynamic stabilization drills for the shoulder
  • Nonoperative and postoperative rehabilitation
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Shoulder instability
  • SLAP lesions
  • The stiff shoulder
  • Manual therapy for the shoulder

The program offers 21 CEU hours for the NATA and APTA of MA and 20 CEU hours through the NSCA.

Click below to save $150 off the program between now and November 1st:




How to Perform and Advance Rhythmic Stabilization Drills

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on How to Perform and Advance Rhythmic Stabilization Drills is now available.


How to Perform and Advance Rhythmic Stabilization Drills

How to Perform and Advance Rhythmic Stabilization Drills Mike ReinoldThis month’s Inner Circle webinar is on How to Perform and Advance Rhythmic Stabilization Drills.  Rhythmic stabilization drills have become very popular since I discussed in my DVD Optimal Shoulder Performance several years ago.  These are easy and excellent drills to start working on dynamic stabilization.  However, I must say over the years I feel like people are getting pretty sloppy with these drills, which essentially makes them much less effective.  Just because an exercise is simple, doesn’t mean that we should be sloppy with how we perform.  In this inservice presentation, I discuss how to perform rhythmic stabilization drills and all the ways we advance them from simple to advanced.

In this webinar, we discuss:

  • Why rhythmic stabilization drills are a great way to start enhancing dynamic stability
  • How to perform basic rhythmic stabilizations
  • How to advance rhythmic stabilization drills by changing technique variables
  • How to know when to advance someone or scale back to get the most out of the drills

To access this webinar:



How to Improve Overhead Shoulder Mobility

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on my How to Improve Overhead Shoulder Mobility is now available.


How to Improve Overhead Shoulder Mobility

Improving Overhead Shoulder MobilityThis month’s Inner Circle webinar is on how to improve overhead shoulder mobility.  In this webinar I’ll discuss:

  • We we are losing overhead shoulder mobility
  • Why it matters
  • The 4 main reasons why we lose overhead mobility
  • How the body compensates when we lose overhead mobility
  • How to assess for a loss of overhead shoulder mobility
  • What you MUST stop doing immediately with people that have lost overhead mobility – you are making them worse!
  • Corrective exercises to enhance overhead position
  • Manual therapy techniques to improve mobility


To access this webinar:

Integrating Manual Therapy Techniques

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on the Integrating Manual Therapy Techniques is now available.

Integrating Manual Therapy Techniques

Integrated Manual Therapy TechniquesThis month’s Inner Circle webinar was on Integrating Manual Therapy Techniques.  This is essentially my manual therapy system.

In this presentation, I overview how I integrate different manual therapy techniques to provide consistent and predictable results.  By combining several different techniques in a logical and sequential order, you can make rapid results with your clients.

Enhancing Overhead Shoulder Mobility

Enhancing Overhead Shoulder MobilityOverhead shoulder mobility is one of the things that a large majority of people could all improve on if addressed appropriately.  This seems to be limited in a very large percentage of people, especially in those with shoulder pain and dysfunction.  Perhaps it has to do with our seated postures or our more sedentary lifestyles, but regardless limited overhead shoulder mobility is probably going to cause issues if not addressed.


Enhancing Overhead Shoulder Mobility

Here is a clip from my brand new educational program with Eric Cressey, Functional Stability Training for the Upper Body.  In the clip I am assessing someone with limited overhead shoulder mobility.  During the assessment it became clear that he had a few issues limiting his mobility, but I wanted to demonstrate how a few simple manual therapy techniques can clear up this pattern rather quickly if assessed and treated appropriately.

YouTube Preview Image

It really goes back down to a proper assessment and know what you are looking for when assessing people.  This is just a very small clip of some of the great information we cover in our new program, which is on sale for $20 off this week (sale ends Sunday May 18th at midnight EST).   Click here or the image below to order now before the sale ends!

Functional Stability Training for the Upper Body

Strategies for Anterior Pelvic Tilt

The latest Inner Circle webinar recording on the Strategies for Anterior Pelvic Tilt is now available.

Strategis for Anterior Pelvic Tilt

strategies for anterior pelvic tiltThis month’s Inner Circle webinar was on Strategies for Anterior Pelvic Tilt.  I go through my system of how I integrate manual therapy, self-myofascial release, stretching, and correcting exercises.  To me, it’s all how you put the program together.  My system builds off each step to maximize the effectiveness of your programs.


To access the webinar, please be sure you are logged in and are a member 0f the Inner Circle program.

5 Common Stretches We Probably Shouldn’t Be Using

5 Common Stretches We Probably Shouldnt Be DoingThe latest Inner Circle webinar recording on the 5 Common Stretches We Probably Shouldn’t Be Using is now available.

5 Common Stretches We Probably Shouldn’t Be Using

This month’s Inner Circle webinar was on 5 Common Stretches We Probably Shouldn’t Be Using.  Don’t get me wrong, I do perform stretches with people, but I think we often over utilize them as well.  Here are 5 stretches that are pretty common, why I think we overuse them, and what to do about it.


To access the webinar, please be sure you are logged in and are a member 0f the Inner Circle program. On Sale To Celebrate Receiving CEU Approval

iastm-boxI am very excited to announce has officially been approved for 6 CEU contact hours by the NATA and the MA State APTA!  You can also submit for approval with other states and organizations, we provide everything you need on the course lesson page.

In honor of our course approval, Erson and I are going to put the course on sale again for this week only!

The sale price will be available until midnight Sunday EST.  Click here to save $30 and get 6 CEU hours!

Join the several 100s of people that have already gone through the program and are giving it awesome reviews!   IASTM is a really effective manual therapy technique that is easy to learn and doesn’t have to be expensive to perform.  Erson and I show you exactly how we use IASTM and how you can started using the technique quickly and easily!

YouTube Preview Image

Click Here to Start Learning IASTM Today




Optin webinar graphic

5 Things You Need to Understand to Master Functional Rehab and Performance

Join Mike's Newsletter and gain FREE access to his webinar overviewing his system of integrated functional rehab and performance training, PLUS these bonuses:

1. My 1+ Hour Functional Rehab and Performance Webinar

2. My 36-Page Solving the Patellofemoral Mystery eBook

3. My Accelerated ACL Rehabilitation Protocol

Thanks! Check your email for more information and your FREE bonuses!