The Inability to Externally Rotate Shoulder

Oct 26, 2023

When it comes to our shoulder joints, they are responsible for a wide range of movements and flexibility. However, there are certain instances where individuals experience limitations in their shoulder mobility. One such limitation is being unable to externally rotate the shoulder. In this article, we will explore the causes, implications, and treatment options for this condition.

The Anatomy of the Shoulder Joint

To understand the inability to externally rotate the shoulder, it is important to have a basic understanding of the shoulder joint's anatomy. The shoulder joint is a complex structure consisting of the humerus bone (upper arm bone), scapula bone (shoulder blade), and the clavicle bone (collarbone). These bones are connected by ligaments, tendons, and muscles, forming a network that enables various movements.

One of the key movements of the shoulder joint is external rotation. It allows the arm to rotate away from the body, giving us the ability to reach behind our back, throw a ball, or perform other daily activities involving rotational movements.

Causes of Inability to Externally Rotate Shoulder

The inability to externally rotate the shoulder can stem from various underlying causes. Some common causes include:

  • Rotator Cuff Injuries: The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, providing stability and enabling movement. Injuries to the rotator cuff, such as tears or strains, can limit the range of motion, including external rotation.
  • Shoulder Dislocation: A shoulder dislocation occurs when the humerus bone separates from the shoulder socket. This traumatic incident can lead to instability and restricted movement, including external rotation.
  • Frozen Shoulder: Also known as adhesive capsulitis, frozen shoulder is a condition characterized by stiffness and limited range of motion in the shoulder joint. External rotation may be particularly challenging for individuals with frozen shoulder.
  • Shoulder Impingement Syndrome: This condition occurs when the structures of the shoulder, such as tendons or bursa, become compressed or irritated. Shoulder impingement can restrict the ability to externally rotate the shoulder.
  • Biceps Tendonitis: Tendonitis, an inflammation of the tendons, can affect the biceps tendon located at the front of the shoulder. This inflammation can restrict various movements, including external rotation.

Treatment Options for Inability to Externally Rotate Shoulder

Effective management of the inability to externally rotate the shoulder requires identification of the underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options:

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in rehabilitating shoulder injuries and improving range of motion. A skilled physical therapist can design a customized exercise program that focuses on strengthening the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, promoting flexibility and restoring external rotation capabilities.

Chiropractic Care

Chiropractors with expertise in shoulder joint issues can provide targeted adjustments and manual therapy techniques to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, and promote overall joint health. They can address misalignments, optimize nerve function, and enhance shoulder mobility, including external rotation.

Medication and Injections

Depending on the specific condition causing the inability to externally rotate the shoulder, medication or corticosteroid injections may be prescribed to manage pain, reduce inflammation, and improve joint movement.


In severe cases or when conservative treatments do not yield desired results, surgical intervention may be necessary. Surgery aims to repair damaged tissues, reposition bones, or address underlying structural issues contributing to limited external rotation in the shoulder joint.

Consulting a Health Professional

If you are experiencing difficulty or pain with external rotation of the shoulder, it is essential to consult with a qualified health professional. They can accurately diagnose the underlying condition, develop an appropriate treatment plan, and guide you throughout the recovery process.

In conclusion, the inability to externally rotate the shoulder can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life. Understanding the causes, seeking timely treatment, and following professional guidance are crucial for effectively managing this condition. Remember, consulting a healthcare professional specializing in shoulder-related issues will provide you with the most accurate diagnosis and tailored treatment plan for your specific needs.

unable to externally rotate shoulder
Jennifer Daniels
I found this article really helpful! Great breakdown of the causes and treatment options for shoulder rotation issues.
Nov 9, 2023
Amy Freeman
This was a very informative article! 😊 It's important to understand the causes and treatment options for the inability to externally rotate the shoulder. 💪🏻
Oct 28, 2023