Posterior capsule tightness: What is it and what can you do about it?

Posterior capsule tightness: What is it and what can you do about it?

For every organ and limb in the human body, there are other components around it that help it do its job. For instance, not only do you have a shoulder joint that helps your arms reach a high shelf, but that joint is surrounded by the posterior capsule.

The posterior capsule covers the region of the shoulder that includes the back of the shoulder joint as well as the surrounding tissue. The back of the shoulder joint is also known as the posterior. The posterior capsule is a fluid-filled sac that lubricates the shoulder joint and helps it move smoothly. If the posterior capsule thickens up, causing posterior capsule tightness, you might have a difficult time moving your arm. 

Causes of posterior capsule tightness

If you’re experiencing posterior capsule tightness, or PCT, it means that the region is inflamed. PCT can result in shoulder pain and tightness as well as a decreased range of motion. 

Posterior capsule tightness is common in athletes who often have their arms raised over their heads, such as swimmers and divers. It can also affect athletes who are constantly lifting their arms, such as baseball, tennis and football players.

Tightness in the posterior capsule may be linked to other shoulder injuries and conditions, including:

  • Frozen shoulder — This condition occurs when the connective tissue around the shoulder joint tightens up. This can cause the area to stiffen up and restrict movement. Research has shown that frozen shoulder is the most common condition connected to PCT.
  • Rotator cuff tears — Tearing a rotator cuff normally occurs from repetitive shoulder motions, resulting in weakness and pain.
  • Shoulder impingement syndrome — This syndrome also comes from repetitive shoulder activity. When the rotator cuff rubs against the shoulder blade, it can become inflamed.

Treating posterior capsule tightness

There aren’t many treatment options available to help alleviate tightness in the posterior capsule, except for stretching. 

Stretching is an effective method of relieving shoulder pain that stems from tightness in the posterior capsule. It can also help with the restricted motion. But it’s important to know about the proper stretching exercises that won’t exacerbate your shoulder pain. If you don’t properly tackle the problem, the posterior capsule can thicken up even more.

That’s why people dealing with PCT should turn to physical therapy. 

How physical therapy can help posterior capsule tightness

There are many ways that physical therapy can reduce your PCT pain and increase your shoulder’s range of motion. Several of these helpful PT methods fall into the manual therapy  category. 

Soft tissue mobilization is a manual therapy method where a physical therapist uses their hands to manipulate and apply pressure to the shoulder muscles and other soft tissue. Specialists can also use a manual therapy method called joint mobilization to help PCT patients, too. They’ll perform this technique by using their hands to gently move the shoulder joint through its full range of motion. 

With the right combo of manual therapy and other PT methods, your therapist can help you: 

  • Relieve muscle tension — Even though tightness in the posterior capsule centers on the shoulder joint, it can actually be affected by the surrounding muscles. A physical therapist can help relieve some of the tight muscles by releasing the tension in the area, including the shoulder joint. This can be accomplished through soft tissue mobilization, which can help to release muscle tension as well as encourage blood flow.
  • Reduce inflammation — Addressing the inflammation of posterior capsule tightness is essential for helping to alleviate the pain and increase your range of motion. A physical therapist can use manual therapy techniques to break up the swelling tissue and relax the joint. This will allow you more mobility in your shoulder.
  • Learn effective exercises — Slowly yet efficiently working the shoulder joint and muscles can play a key role in helping to relieve PCT. Working with a physical therapist can ensure that you’re properly stretching the shoulder joint. They can show you the specific exercises needed to reduce inflammation and increase your mobility. Greater mobility will allow for a gradually increased range of motion. Physical therapy plans are personalized to your specific needs to ensure that you can safely follow the exercises while targeting the pain.

Franklin Rehabilitation can help alleviate your posterior capsule tightness

Not having a full range of motion in your shoulder can affect your ability to play sports or even just accomplish your daily tasks. If you’re having trouble raising your arm without feeling a twinge of pain, or the tightness in your shoulder joint is only getting worse, then let one of our physical therapists help with posterior capsule tightness. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.