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Stretches for Shoulder Pain

Shoulder tightness and pain are two of the most common complaints amongst adults, with nearly 18 to 26% of adults reporting that they deal with shoulder pain. Stiffness in your shoulders or the upper body can often have an impact on your ability to perform everyday activities. While there can be many contributing factors to your shoulder pain or stiffness, there are ways to potentially mitigate the stiffness and alleviate pain in this region with physical therapy and manual therapy techniques.

One of the ways our licensed and trained physical therapists use manual therapy techniques is through exercises and stretches that are designed to improve mobility and alleviate pain. Before beginning any type of exercise or stretching routine, you should consult with a qualified healthcare professional or physical therapist who can educate you on the potential benefits and instruct you on the proper way to perform the exercises and stretches.

Take a look at some of the best stretches for shoulder pain which may help you improve your range of motion and alleviate discomfort.

4 Stretches for Shoulder Pain

As you implement these stretches for shoulder pain into your daily routine, you should focus on building up the frequency and duration to progressively improve your ability to complete each stretch over time. When you first start out, you want to focus on getting your body used to the stretches and the new movements. As you perform each stretch, you should strive to complete each movement with a comfortable pace and intensity. If you experience increased levels of pain or extended periods of discomfort that don’t go away with time, stop the stretch and consult with a qualified healthcare professional.

Shoulder Rolls

One common reason for shoulder pain is the stiffness and tension in the upper back or shoulders. This stiffness can come from a variety of sources or it can be as simple as the day’s stress which has built up and subconsciously caused your shoulders to tighten up over time. To begin this exercise, you’ll want to be in a standing position while looking forward. Keep your arms comfortably relaxed at your sides.

To start this stretch, you’ll want to roll your shoulders up towards your ears, forward, and then back down to the starting position. During this stretch, you’re looking to create a rolling motion at a controlled pace without starts and stops. Roll your shoulders forward for ten repetitions and then reverse the direction to go backward for another ten repetitions. This shoulder stretch may help to alleviate some of the built-up tension in your shoulders and neck.

One great thing about this stretch is that it can be done throughout the day.

    • Stand with your arms comfortably relaxed at your sides while facing forward
    • Raise your shoulders up to your ears, forward, and back down
    • Roll your shoulders at a controlled pace without starts and stops
    • Perform forward shoulder rolls for ten consecutive repetitions
    • Repeat the shoulder rolls in the reverse direction for an additional ten repetitions
    • Return to the starting position

Shoulder Shrugs

One of the many reasons that individuals can experience shoulder pain or stiffness can be due to an underlying muscle imbalance. One of the best ways to address that imbalance is to actively work to strengthen those muscles over time. By addressing the muscle imbalance, stiffness and tension can alleviate over time and may reduce some of the associated pain. Shoulder shrugs can be a great exercise to implement into your routine to alleviate some tension in your upper shoulders and neck area.

To begin this stretch, you want to be standing once again and looking straight forward with your arms comfortably relaxed at your sides. From this position, slowly raise your shoulders up towards your ears. Hold this position for several seconds and then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat this stretch for several repetitions.

  • Stand with your arms comfortably at your sides while facing forward
  • Slowly raise your shoulders up towards your ears
  • Hold this position for several seconds
  • Slowly return to the starting position

Shoulder Pendulums

Shoulders can do a lot of different movements and it’s one of the many reasons we rely so heavily on them to perform many of our everyday activities. Shoulder pendulums can be an effective method to warm up and stretch those shoulder joints to get them ready for all that lies ahead by improving blood flow to the area and increasing mobility. To begin this stretch, you’ll want to find a sturdy structure, desk, or chair that you can use for support.

While standing straight up and facing a supporting structure, place one hand on the support structure and bend over at the hips to allow your other arm to hang down freely towards the ground. At a controlled pace, begin to slowly rotate your free arm clockwise for ten repetitions. Stand back up, swap the supporting hand, bend over once again, and perform the same clockwise motion with the opposite arm for ten repetitions.

  • Find a supporting structure you can brace against
  • Stand straight up facing the supporting structure and place one hand on the supporting structure to brace yourself
  • Bend over at the hips and let the free hand hang freely towards the ground
  • Begin to slowly rotate your free hand in a clockwise motion for ten repetitions
  • Slowly return to the starting position
  • Repeat the stretch for the opposite arm

Across the Chest Stretch

Stiffness in the back of your shoulders may also cause shoulder pain to develop over time. This stretch may help to alleviate some of the stiffness and built-up tension at the back of your shoulder. To begin this stretch, you’ll want to be standing with your feet placed firmly on the ground and looking straight ahead. With your arms comfortably relaxed at your sides, raise the arm of the shoulder that you’d like to stretch out in front of you with the palm of the hand pointing behind you. Slowly bring the arm across your body.

Bend the opposite arm at the elbow and hook it underneath the arm that you’re currently stretching to support it. From this position, gently pull the arm you’re stretching across your body to stretch the back of the shoulder. Avoid stretching or pulling your arm too far. You should feel a gentle pressure at the back of your shoulder. Hold this position for thirty seconds, return to the starting position, and then repeat for the opposite shoulder.

  • Stand with your arms comfortably relaxed at your sides and facing forward
  • Raise one arm out in front of you with the palm pointing behind you
  • Bend the elbow of the opposite arm and hook it underneath the extended arm to support it
  • Gently pull the outstretched arm across your body to stretch the back of your shoulder
  • Avoid stretching or pulling the arm too far
  • Hold the stretch for thirty seconds
  • Return to the starting position
  • Repeat for the opposite shoulder

Treat Shoulder Pain with Physical Therapy

Our licensed and trained physical therapists are movement experts who can help you alleviate shoulder pain so you don’t have to put up with it. With our hands-on manual therapy techniques, our PTs will help you alleviate shoulder pain, improve range of motion, restore function, and prevent shoulder injuries. Our experienced PTs will use a unique treatment plan designed to fit your needs and goals to help you address the contributing factors of your shoulder pain.

Schedule an appointment today at a nearby in-person physical therapy clinic to see how our physical therapists can help you treat your shoulder pain.

 

 

 

  1. Linaker, Catherine H, and Karen Walker-Bone. “Shoulder Disorders and Occupation.” Best Practice & Research. Clinical Rheumatology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2015.
  2. Pennmedicine.org, https://www.pennmedicine.org/for-patients-and-visitors/patient-information/conditions-treated-a-to-z/shoulder-pain.
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