How’s your upper-body flexibility? This quick test can let you know.
When you reach one hand down your back and the other up your back, how close are they to each other? In this video, SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack, along with physical therapist Mark Greenwood, explains how the back scratch test can give you clues about your upper-body flexibility and shoulder health.
You can do this test with the help of a partner, who can check how close your hands are. Or if you’re doing the test on your own, you can use landmarks on your body to estimate where your hands land:
- Back of your head
- Base of your neck
- Top of your shoulder blade
- Side of your hips
- Small of your back
- Bottom of your shoulder blade
Try the test now, then see what your results mean below. If you have a shoulder injury or have had shoulder replacement surgery, skip the test, but check out the tips below.
If You Didn’t Notice Any Pain or a Big Imbalance
That’s a sign your shoulders are in good health. Flexible, mobile shoulders make it much easier to reach for objects, get dressed, play sports, and pick up grandkids. What else you should know: The shoulders, which are the most versatile joints in our body, can also be the most vulnerable to long-term wear and tear.
If You Noticed Any Pain or a Big Imbalance
That’s a sign to talk to your doctor. There’s usually a reason why you’re in pain—here are four surprising ones your shoulders could be hurting—and something that can be done about it. To make your conversation easier, jot down your symptoms:
- Where you are experiencing the pain
- When the pain started and how often it occurs
- Any other symptoms you are experiencing
If there’s no underlying injury or condition that needs to be addressed, a good next step is to get moving. SilverSneakers classes make it easier. You’ll find moves that can be modified for your needs, the support of a trained instructor, and a built-in opportunity to meet new people.
Prefer exercising on your own? Check out any of the exercises above. And if you previously noticed that one shoulder is much less flexible than the other, you may want to add a few extra reps for that side.
If You Have a Shoulder Injury or Have Had Shoulder Replacement Surgery
Working with your doctor or physical therapist can help you resume activity safely. Ask these questions:
- Do I need additional medical treatment or physical therapy?
- When can I start exercising on my own again?
- What types of exercise are appropriate for me, and what types should I avoid?
Check Your SilverSneakers Eligibility Instantly
SilverSneakers members can go to thousands of gyms and fitness locations across the nation, plus take exercise classes designed for seniors and led by supportive instructors. If you have a Medicare Plan, it may include SilverSneakers—at no additional cost. Check your eligibility instantly here.
Already a member? Get your SilverSneakers member ID and exclusive fitness content by logging in to or creating your online account here.