Top 10 Shoulder Stretches for Pain and Tightness

The painful and tight shoulders can be your worst enemy. The discomfort creeps up when sitting at your desk, sapping your energy and drive. You try to maintain good posture every now and then, and when that doesn’t cut it, it is tricky to get over the tightness and focus on your daily to-dos. 

Stress only adds more fuel to the fire. When the body is under a lot of stress, its natural reaction is to tense up. For those who stress is an everyday struggle to experience muscle tension. This can lead to pain, tightness, and stiffness in the shoulders and neck.

The thing is, shoulder pain is a lot more prevalent than people realize. Based on a recent survey, this type of pain impacts 18% to 26% of adults at any point in time. That’s why it is considered one of the most frequent regional pain syndromes.

Of course, plenty of reasons can cause tight and painful shoulders. When the tightness limits your range of motion, that’s when you need to figure out how to stretch shoulder blade knots. Here, you can find the correct shoulder stretches that can make a difference.

Neck Stretch

When you are looking for how to relieve tight shoulder muscles, it’s important to start with the neck. The levator scapulae muscle, which runs down on the side of the neck, also helps lift the shoulder blades.

How to do:

– Stand tall with the back straight. 

– Lower the chin towards the chest.

– Tilt the head right and hold for a minute.

– Release and repeat with the other side.

– Stretch every side 3 to 5 times.

Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch

This one will hit the spot for those in need of shoulder stretches for flexibility. It loosens up the shoulder muscles and biceps, which is a critical factor in amplifying circulation and range of motion. 

How to do:

– Stand tall with the left arm across the chest. 

– Use your other hand to push and hold the left arm towards the opposite shoulder.

– Hold for around a minute and repeat with the other arm.

– Stretch each side 3 to 5 times.

Seated Neck & Shoulder Twist

This is one of the most simple and most effective stretches for neck and shoulder pain. Due to its gentle movements, you can work with the muscle fibers in both the upper back and base of the head. But, most importantly, you will be engaging the shoulders and spinal joints. 

How to do:

– Take a comfortable position on a sturdy chair. 

– Position the ankles right below the knees.

– Turn the torso to the right and position the back of the left hand on the thigh. 

– Hold for around 30 sec and repeat on the other side.

– Stretch each side 3 to 5 times.

Pendulum Stretch

When there is unbalanced muscle contraction and the shoulder feels super tight, you need to work with these muscles to ease that tightness. That way, you can curb the pain and give your body that much-needed break. Many experts recommend the pendulum stretch because of its potential to ease a frozen shoulder

How to do:

– Stand with the right hand on a table or chair and let your other hand hang loose. 

– Do a circle-like motion with the loose hand a couple of times in every direction.

– Stretch each hand 2 to 3 times a day.

Behind the Back Towel Stretch

Plenty of stiff shoulder stretches can offer excellent results. But, the towel stretch is one of those options you shouldn’t overlook. That’s because the towel creates tension and makes you put in the effort to work with those tight muscles. 

How to do: 

– Take a 3-foot-long towel and hold it on each end behind your back. 

– Use the healthy arm to pull the tight shoulder upward. 

– Pull the bottom of the towel with the affected arm toward the lower back.

– Repeat 10 to 20 times a day.

Wall Shoulder Stretch

Many people want to know how to relieve tension in the neck and shoulders. But, very few are doing simple stretches that can engage their core and ease the tension in the shoulders. This option below is one of them.

How to do:

– Stand near a wall and place an arm and its elbow on it, creating a 90° angle.

– Press the palm on the side of the wall and take a small step forward with your right foot.

– Lean forward with the upper body and slightly turn the body on the opposite side of the wall.

– Do the same with the other foot.

– Repeat 2 to 3 times. 

Downward Dog Pose Stretch

Physiotherapy exercises for shoulder and arm pain also focus on other body areas. The goal is to fine-tune your muscles to stimulate blood flow and stretch fully. Loosening up the tightness in the shoulders can help ease the discomfort. 

How to do:

– Position your body on your hands and knees. Lift your hips upwards and use your hands to maintain this position.

– Keep the knees slightly bent to distribute the weight evenly. 

– Maintain a straight spine as you bring the head towards the feet. 

– Hold for about a minute and release. 

Child’s Pose

When someone struggles with shoulder tension, it’s not uncommon for the rest of their upper back to feel that discomfort. You need a light twist that will calm the body and offer some relief. Position a cushion for some extra head support.

How to do:

– From the Downward Dog Pose, position the knees a bit wider than the hips and bring the toes together. 

– Extend the arms in front of you and sink the hips.

– Let your chest fall towards the thighs as you relax the shoulders and spine. 

– Your forehead should be touching the floor or resting on a cushion.

– Hold no more than 5 minutes.

Inward Rotation

Relieving pain and tension and improving flexibility comes down to stretching the muscles. But, sometimes, you will need some extra help. A rubber exercise band can give you that support. 

How to do: 

– Close the door and stand next to it. 

– Secure one end of the band around the doorknob. 

– Cup the other end in your palm. Use the affected arm.

– Hold the elbow at a 90° angle and use the hand to pull the band towards the body 2 to 3 inches.

– Hold for a couple of seconds and repeat 10 to 15 times daily. 

Outward Rotation

Instead of a door, you will be using both your hands to achieve the desired result. The impact is relatively the same, and the stretch is easy to perform. 

How to do:

– Hold the exercise band between the hands with the elbows near the sides at a 90° angle.

– Rotate the lower section of the impacted arm outward 2 to 3 inches.

– Hold for a couple of seconds and do the same 10 to 15 times daily.