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shoulder stretches

17 Best Shoulder Stretches For Pain & Tightness

We all develop aches and pains across our shoulders at times, and knowing the best shoulder stretches can be incredibly helpful, especially ahead of a tough workout. 

The right shoulder flexibility stretches help to loosen your muscles, relieve any lingering soreness that could impede your workout, and shoulder blade stretches for pain offer simple and fast relief.

OriGym’s guide will explore a collection of the best shoulder stretches, including dynamic shoulder stretches, and the ideal stretches for shoulder pain and discomfort, as well as answering any burning questions you may have.

Whether you’re a fitness fanatic, or are pondering the question of “what are some good shoulder stretches”, our comprehensive report covers everything you’ll need to know. 

Contents:

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What Are Shoulder Stretches?

shoulder stretch

While this may seem self-explanatory, it’s important to define exactly what we mean by shoulder blade stretches, especially as we’ll be looking more closely at the best options.

Put simply, shoulder blade stretches involve extending the muscles in the shoulder (namely the deltoids, the teres major, and the rotator cuff) to increase blood flow, stretch the muscles, and release any lingering tension or soreness. They’ll also positively affect arm muscles (like the biceps and triceps) and your back muscles.

These major muscle groups often form part of what we do on a daily basis, even if it’s  as simple as carrying the shopping to the car, or reaching for something from the cupboard.

These stretches for your shoulder can generally be done anywhere (although there may be some more dynamic shoulder stretches that require a piece of equipment or household object - read more in our article on how unusual household objects can form part of a balanced workout), and act as stress relief, alleviating muscle aches and pains.

But what are the best shoulder stretches for pain? And what’s the ideal way to get started with these beneficial shoulder muscle stretches? Let’s look at a few of our favourite options.

The Best Shoulder Stretches

#1 - Shoulder Rolls

First on our list of the best shoulder stretches is arguably one of the more simple, beginner-friendly stretches for shoulder pain. But that doesn’t mean it lacks any impact, as this still works each of your shoulder muscles.

Starting Position: Stand up tall, with your back straight and with your feet shoulder width apart.

Execution:

  • Inhale, and move your shoulders up to your ears
  • Then, move them backwards, and downwards before exhaling
  • Finally, move your shoulders forwards, completing the circular motion

What Muscles Does This Stretch Target? 

Performing these shoulder stretches benefits the biceps, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis, all of which can have a profound effect on the shoulder muscles, relieving tightness and soreness.

How Long Should I Practice This Stretch For?

We’d recommend doing these shoulder stretches for around 30 - 45 seconds. 

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Moving Too Quickly - While this is one of the easier shoulder stretches, it can be tempting to do it quickly before moving onto more complex movements. We’d strongly recommend taking your time because, despite its simplicity, it’s one of the most beneficial injured shoulder stretches.
  • Pushing The Shoulders Too Far Back - Pushing the shoulders too far back as you start your rotation can cause unnecessary discomfort. Experiment with these shoulder stretches, and find what works best for you.

#2 - Pendulum Swings

One of very few sore shoulder stretches that require a basic piece of equipment, pendulum swings are simple enough to complete, but are often ideal shoulder stretches for pain, especially if you’re a beginner.

Equipment Needed: A table or chair for support and balance.

Starting Position: Place one hand on your supporting equipment, and let your other arm hang loosely in front of you. 

Execution:

  • Begin swinging your non-supporting arm in a gentle back and forth motion by your side
  • Complete 6 swings, both backwards and forwards.
  • Then, move your arm so that it swings across the body, as opposed to by your side
  • Complete 6 swings, both backwards and forwards.
  • Finally, slowly bring your arm to a stop.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These shoulder stretches only work the deltoid muscle group, but they’re an ideal shoulder stretch if you’re looking to focus on those particular muscles. Alternatively, if you’re looking for workout suggestions for one muscle group, we’ve got a comprehensive guide to the best step exercises.

How Long Should I Practice This Stretch For? 

We’d suggest performing this stretch for 45 - 60 seconds, especially as it allows for a complete stretch of the shoulders, and means that the muscles fully open up.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Moving Too Quickly - During these stretches for your shoulder blades, you’ll always have an arm hanging loose, and it can be easy to move too quickly or too aggressively, which can aggravate any issues or pain. Move gently at first, and then build up your movement speed to a level you’re comfortable with
  • Losing Balance - Unlike many other stretches for shoulder pain, there’s the added element of balance to consider with this one. Make sure you grip your chair firmly, or maintain a steady balance if you’re using a table or box to steady yourself.

#3 - T, Y, & I Movements

Dynamic shoulder stretches, or shoulder stretches that transition between positions or poses, can often be incredibly beneficial. These T, Y and I movements offer an ideal option, but we’d recommend laying down your best yoga mat so that you’re as comfortable and relaxed as possible.

Equipment Required: A yoga mat or floor covering is recommended but not required

Starting Position: Lay down flat on the floor, with your arms bent at the elbow to prop you up, and your head facing the floor

Execution

  • Slowly extend your arms to the sides (into the “T” position), inhaling as you do so
  • Then lift your arms slightly - this may be uncomfortable at first, but do as much as you can before the discomfort is too much
  • Next, lower your arms back to “T” position, exhaling as you do so
  • Now move your arms upwards to form a “Y” shape, inhaling as you do so
  • Again, lift your arms slightly
  • Return your arms back to the “Y” position, exhaling as you do so
  • Then, move your arms into an “I” position, directly reaching out above where your head is, and inhale 
  • Once more, lift your arms slightly
  • Return to the “I” position, exhaling as you do so
  • Move backwards through those same shoulder stretch movements before returning to the starting position

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These dynamic shoulder stretches work many muscle groups, namely: the trapezius, the posterior deltoids, the rhomboids, and the latissimus dorsi. This is arguably one of the most effective shoulder stretches, targeting multiple muscle groups with just a small series of movements.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

The optimal amount of time to perform these shoulder stretches for is 45 - 60 seconds. 

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Moving Your Arms Too Far Back - It’s vital, when you move your arms back as part of this string of shoulder blade stretches, that you don’t move too far back, as this can cause unneeded discomfort or strain
  • Not Engaging Your Core - Because you’ll be on your stomach for this exercise, it’s a great idea to engage your core, as this can help build strength in your abdominals while you’re performing these shoulder stretches.

#4 - Chin Retractions

Another simple movement that ensures you can undertake some really good shoulder stretches without having to use specialised equipment, or even floor space. This is an ideal option if you’re looking for stretches for shoulder pain that are suitable for the office.

Starting Position: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. You can also perform these shoulder stretches seated, but standing will give the best results.

Execution:

  • Extend your head forwards, leading with your chin
  • Once fully extended, return back to your natural position
  • Push back slightly as you reach your neutral position
  • Return back to your starting position

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These shoulder stretches for pain work the upper thoracic extensors, the scalenes, the splenius capitis, and the suboccipitals, meaning they’re an ideal stretch for targeting multiple important areas.

How Long Should I Practice This Stretch For?

We’d suggest doing at least 12 - 15 reps of this shoulder stretch, especially given its quick and simple nature.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

#5 - Shoulder Rotation (“Goal Post Arms”)

Dynamic shoulder stretches allow you to fully extend the shoulder muscles, and with no equipment necessary, this is arguably one of the best shoulder stretches that requires no setup.

You could also augment this shoulder stretch with a piece of resistance equipment, like resistance bands - check out our complete guide to resistance training to see if it’s right for you!

Starting Position: Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart. You can optionally do this against a wall, as this will provide stability for these upcoming shoulder blade stretches.

Execution

  • Slowly move your arms upward by your side, bending at the elbow so that they’re at a 180 degree angle (flat against the wall, if you’re using one) and level with your shoulder, with the fingertips pointing upwards and the palms outwards
  • Hold the pose for 30 seconds
  • Slowly return your to natural position

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage? 

These shoulder stretches work the biceps, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis, all of which are key areas when it comes to relieving shoulder pain and tension.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

While it’s always important to be comfortable with any and all shoulder stretches, we’d suggest aiming to hold this pose for at least 30 seconds, especially as it’s one of the best shoulder stretches for pain.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Pointing Palms Inwards - With these shoulder stretches, you need to make sure that your palms are pointed outwards, as this means the stretch will be much more effective.
  • Improper Posture - Ensure your posture is good, maintaining a straight back and keeping your shoulders and elbows at 90 degree angles throughout this shoulder stretch.

#6 - Reverse Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder stretches often have a limited range of motion, but moving our shoulders behind the back, we can expand that significantly, and therefore improve our flexibility. Explore OriGym’s top tips to improve flexibility to learn more.

Starting Position: Stand upright, maintaining good posture, and with your feet shoulder distance apart.

Execution:

  • Move your arms and clasp your hands behind your back, with your palms facing outwards
  • Gentle push outwards with your hands, and you’ll feel a pull on your shoulders and back
  • Hold this position for around 20 - 30 seconds
  • Relax your arms, and return them to your side.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

As one of the best shoulder stretches for pain and tightness, this targets the deltoids, the pectorals, and the supraspinatus.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch?

We’d recommend aiming to hold this stretch for at least 20 seconds, or as high as 30 if you’re able to. It’s vital, though, with all shoulder stretches, that you don’t push it too far, as this can cause further discomfort.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Pushing Too Far Back - Of course, as you stretch backwards with these stretches for shoulder pain, there’s a danger of pushing too far, and straining your shoulder can exacerbate any lingering pain or soreness.
  • Bad Posture - As with many shoulder stretches (for pain or otherwise), it’s vital to maintain good posture, as bending awkwardly or being hunched over can cause these stretches to be less effective.

#7 - Palm Presses & Pulls

Utilising the palms in stretches for shoulder pain can often allow for a much greater range of motion, and therefore a much more thorough stretch.  You’ll also be able to gain some stretching on the arms - OriGym’s full exploration of the best arm stretches offers a multitude of options.

Starting Position: Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart. Maintaining good, sturdy posture here is the key to ensuring these shoulder stretches are as effective as they can be.

Execution:

  • Place your hands together, pressing the palms together (as though you’re praying)
  • Push your palms together, feeling a stretch on the shoulders
  • Slowly tilt your hands backwards and forwards, pointing the fingers outwards, before moving them back towards you
  • Repeat for 10 - 12 reps

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These simple yet effective sore shoulder stretches engage the pectorals, the anterior deltoids, and the triceps.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

We would suggest aiming to hold each position for at least 20 seconds, especially as this can be a really effective shoulder stretch.

Common Mistakes To Avoid 

  • Pushing Too Hard - Pushing your palms together too hard can not only hurt your hands, but it can detrimentally affect your shoulder blade stretches, too. 
  • Overtwisting Your Hands - Twisting your hands too far either towards you, or away from you, can cause discomfort and pain, especially if you force those shoulder stretches. 

#8 - Shoulder Raises

As we’ve previously seen other entries on our list, stretches for your shoulder blades don’t necessarily have to be difficult and complex. Shoulder raises are a great example of good shoulder stretches for pain that don’t need a long time or a dedicated area to complete.

Starting Position: Stand upright, with your arms by your sides, and your spine straight.

Execution:

  • Move your arms upwards directly by your side, until they reach a 90 degree angle (this should cause your shoulders to stretch), forming a “T” shape
  • Move your arms back down to your sides
  • Repeat for 15 - 20 reps

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These shoulder stretches engage the biceps, the brachialis, and the brachioradialis, all three of which are integral muscles in our shoulders and arms.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

Our suggestion would be to complete between 15 and 20 reps of these shoulder stretches, especially as there’s no position to hold during these movements.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Moving Your Arms Too Far Upwards - With these stretches for shoulder pain, you only need to bring your arms up to your shoulder level, no further. It can be tempting to move further up, but try and avoid this as much as possible
  • Moving Too Quickly - These shoulder stretches should be gentle movements, and therefore won’t need to be completed quickly.

#9 - Cross-body Shoulder Stretch

Shoulder blade stretches can often have increased effectiveness when incorporating the whole body, which is why this next movement is among the best shoulder stretches for pain.

Starting Position: Stand fully upright, with your feet shoulder distance apart

Execution

  • Take your right arm, and reach it across your body at a 180 degree angle
  • Using your left hand, push gently on the elbow of your right arm
  • Hold this push for 5 seconds
  • Relax both arms
  • Swap to the opposite side, bring your left arm across the body, and gently push your left elbow with your right hand.
  • Hold this push for 5 seconds
  • Relax

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

While this shoulder stretch only targets the deltoids, it’s among one of the best dynamic shoulder stretches because of that targeted nature. The deltoids often harbour a significant amount of stress and tension.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

We’d recommend holding the stretch, especially when pushing with your opposite hand, for no more than 5 seconds, as this can be an intense shoulder stretch.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Pushing Too Hard - Pushing too hard with your opposite hand can cause unnecessary discomfort. Make sure to be gentle, placing enough pressure just to feel the shoulder stretch.
  • Overworking One Arm - Make sure to switch regularly between your arms so as not to stretch one shoulder more than the other, especially this is one of the best stretches for the shoulder blades.

#10 - Child’s Pose

Shoulder stretches in yoga are incredibly popular, and none more so than the shoulder stretch offered by the child’s pose. One of the staple poses of modern practice, this is one of the best injured shoulder stretches.

The ever-evolving world of yoga incorporates a huge range of styles and poses - OriGym’s comprehensive report on the types of different yoga styles explores them in great detail.

Equipment Required: We’d recommend a mat or yoga cushion, but these stretches for shoulder pain can be completed without.

Starting Position: Kneel down on your mat or cushion

Execution

  • Bend slowly at the waist until your glutes touch your heels, placing your palms flat on the floor
  • Start to slide your palms forward, maintaining the bend at your waist, and keeping your glutes against your heels.
  • Stop when your arms are fully extended, and you can feel the stretch across your shoulders and chest.
  • Hold the pose for 20 - 30 seconds
  • Return to your kneeling position slowly
  • Repeat for 2 - 3 reps

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

The latissimus dorsi is the only muscle engaged during these shoulder stretches, but this ensures there is a significant stretch, and that any tension held there is released.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

Our recommendation would be to hold this shoulder stretch for around 20 - 30 seconds, depending on how comfortable you are with this position.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Pushing Too Far Forward - Sliding your hands too far forward can cause discomfort, or even pain. Extend your arms fully, but don’t stretch them out too far.
  • Lifting Off Your Heels - Make sure to keep your glutes on your heels, especially as moving it off can cause these shoulder stretches to lose their effectiveness.
  • Arching/Bending The Back - Keeping the back straight is integral to making sure these shoulder blade stretches have maximum impact.

#11 - Floor Angels

When it comes to dynamic shoulder stretches, there’s limited options, but these shoulder stretches are among the best ways to experience the benefits of dynamic stretching.

Equipment Needed: A yoga blanket, mat, or floor covering is recommended for these shoulder muscle stretches.

Starting Position: Lie down on the floor, on your back, with your feet shoulder width apart.

Execution:

  • Place your arms at shoulder level, bent 90 degrees at the elbow.
  • Slowly extend your arms upwards, until there is only a slight bend at your elbow.
  • Hold for 1 - 2 seconds.
  • Move your arms back down to shoulder level, bent 90 degrees at the elbow.
  • Repeat for 8 - 10 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

This stretch targets your deltoids, which are one of the main muscle groups that make up your shoulders.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

Our suggestion would be to hold your arms in the extended position for around 1 - 2 seconds, as this allows your shoulder muscles to fully extend and open up. We’d also recommend doing this for between 8 and 10 reps.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Extending Arms Fully - When you stretch above your head, it’s important to keep that slight bend at the elbow, as you risk overstretching your arms, and losing the emphasis of these shoulder stretches.
  • Moving Too Quickly - These shoulder stretches are designed to be completed at a gentle pace, and moving too quickly can diminish their effectiveness.

#12 - Towel Shoulder Stretch

One of very few shoulder stretches on our list that requires a simple piece of equipment, these stretches for shoulder pain make use of a towel to create an innovative solution.

The towel acts as a form of resistance, which is the main principle behind many different exercises and stretches. Read more in our thorough report on the difference between resistance bands and weights.

Equipment Needed: A regular towel is perfect for these shoulder stretches, but you may also find a more specialised towel (such as a yoga towel) easier to use.

Starting Position: Extend your arms downwards by your side, keeping a slight bend in your elbow. Hold your towel behind your back, level with your glutes, and gripped in both hands.

Execution:

  • Slowly lift your arms, still holding either side of the towel, up to shoulder level.
  • Lower your arms back to the starting position, stopping when the towel reaches the tops of your quads.
  • Repeat for 6 - 8 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These shoulder stretches fully engage the deltoids, providing an extended and prolonged stretch which is ideal for shoulder pain.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

Our recommendation would be to hold the stretch for around 1 - 2 seconds, before moving the towel back to your glutes. We’d also suggest doing between 6 and 8 reps, in order to maximise the benefits you’ll get from these shoulder stretches.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Extending Arms Fully - With these shoulder stretches, it’s important to make sure you always keep a slight bend in your elbow.
  • Lifting Arms Too High - Lifting your arms too high can cause significant discomfort, so it’s important with these shoulder stretches that you only lift to shoulder level.

#13 - Sphinx Pose with Arm Extension

One of the more unusual shoulder stretches, this can provide an ideal option for those looking for stretches to relieve shoulder pain.

Equipment Needed: We’d recommend having a yoga mat or blanket to lay down, as these shoulder stretches are performed while laying face down.

Starting Position: Lie face down, with your arms bent at the elbow and your hands at shoulder height.

Execution:

  • Slowly start to lift your upper body off the floor, ensuring your pelvis and lower body are still flat to the floor, placing your elbows under your upper body.
  • Extend your arms, and lift your upper body off the floor further.
  • Keep extending your arms until they’re fully extended.
  • Hold the pose for 15 - 20 seconds, before slowly lowering yourself back to the floor.
  • Repeat for 3 - 5 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

This is one of the more diverse shoulder stretches, working the abdominals, the trapezius, the erector spinae, and the rear deltoids with each rep. 

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

We’d suggest holding this position for between 15 and 20 seconds, as this allows the shoulders to fully open up, and you can gain the full benefit of these shoulder stretches.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Lifting Lower Body - This is one of few shoulder stretches that doesn’t use the lower body, and keeping it on the ground will mean your shoulder stretch is even more effective.
  • Lowering or Lifting Too Quickly - This can cause dizziness, or disrupt your focus during these shoulder stretches.

#14 - Side-lying Thoracic Rotation

Arguably one of the best shoulder stretches for pain, these rotating shoulder blade stretches use the full range of motion that our shoulders offer, and allow the muscles to fully open up. 

Equipment Needed: We’d ideally suggest a yoga mat or blanket as these stretches for shoulder pain are completed on the floor.

Starting Position: Lie down on your side with your knees bent, and both arms on one side of the body with the palms facing each other.

Execution:

  • Start by slowly moving one arm in a clockwise direction so that it moves over the head, and onto the opposite side of your body.
  • Then, bring that arm down by your side until it’s flat against your side.
  • Now move the same arm backwards through those same motions until it returns to the starting position.
  • Repeat for 4 - 6 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

Another more diverse shoulder stretch, this movement engages the levator scapulae, the pectoralis minor, the rhomboids, the serratus anterior, the subclavius, the trapezius, the obliques, and the deltoids.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

This shoulder stretch is a gentle movement, but you don’t need to hold it at any point. We’d suggest moving slowly and gently through each motion, and completing around 4 - 6 reps to gain as much from these shoulder stretches as possible.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Moving Too Quickly - Part of these shoulder mobility stretches is moving gently. Moving too quickly, or rushing through these motions, can cause unnecessary discomfort, or lose some of the impact these shoulder flexibility stretches have.
  • Improper Body Position - It’s important to ensure that your knees are bent, and that both arms start on the same side of your body.

#15 - Elbow Tuck and Open

This is perhaps one of the most important shoulder flexibility stretches, as it completely opens up the shoulder blades, and stretches the shoulder muscles thoroughly, making it one of the best shoulder stretches for pain.

Equipment Needed: This is a kneeling stretch, so a yoga mat or blanket may be helpful.

Starting Position: Kneel down on your mat, and place your hands behind your head, with your elbows pointed downwards.

Execution:

  • Move your elbows outwards, and slowly move your head backwards.
  • Bend your back slightly as you move backwards to fully maximise the shoulder stretches.
  • Then, move your head back to the starting position, ensuring your elbows are now pointing downwards.
  • Repeat for 8 - 10 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

These shoulder stretches fully engage the pectorals, the deltoids, and the serratus anterior, all of which are integral parts of achieving all of the benefits of shoulder stretches. 

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

While we wouldn’t suggest holding any specific position during this stretch, we’d strongly advise moving slowly through each of the steps, as this will allow you to fully experience the benefits of the movements.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Bending Too Much - With these shoulder muscle stretches, it can be easy to bend your back too much at the peak of this stretch. A gentle stretch is enough to fully open your shoulders up fully.
  • Improper Form - Make sure your knees are together when you’re performing these shoulder blade stretches for pain.
  • Moving Too Quickly - This a gentle stretch of the shoulders, and the movement doesn’t need to be quick or rushed.

#16 - Broomstick Stretch

While these dynamic shoulder stretches do require a more specific piece of equipment, they’re still among the best shoulder stretches for pain. 

Equipment Needed: For these shoulder stretches, you’ll need a broomstick or long piece of wood to grip onto. We would not advise using a barbell for this, as these are designed to be gentle, accessible movements.

Starting Position: Hold your broomstick in front of you with a firm grip, with your arms fully extended.

Execution:

  • Lift the broomstick above your head in one fluid movement, making sure you keep your arms fully extended.
  • Once the broomstick is above your head, gently move it behind your head, maintaining your grip.
  • Once you’ve reached a point that’s comfortable for you, hold for 2 - 3 seconds, before moving the stick back to above your head.
  • Repeat for 8 - 10 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

While only engaging two muscle groups (the deltoids and the pectorals), these shoulder stretches are among some of the most thorough and effective you can do, especially if you’re looking for shoulder stretches for pain or discomfort.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

Our recommendation would be to hold the stretch you’ll experience when you put the broomstick behind your head for around 2 - 3 seconds. This not only allows your muscles to fully extend, maximising the stretch, but also means that you’re engaging fully with the stretch, and you’ll start to see the benefits.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Pushing Too Far Back - Especially as these stretches for shoulder pain involve pushing backwards (which you may not be used to), it’s important to only take it to where you’re comfortable
  • Grip Too Narrow - Make sure your grip on the broomstick is comfortable, and allows you to move it fully

#17 - Extended Puppy (Uttana Shishosana)

The last of the shoulder blade stretches on our list is another that we might typically associate with yoga, but it can form a great part of any routine that incorporates shoulder flexibility stretches.

If flexibility and stretching interests you, check out our comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of yoga.

Equipment Needed: You’ll be on all fours for these shoulder stretches, so we’d suggest a yoga mat or blanket for comfort.

Starting Position: Get down on all fours on your yoga mat, with your palms on the floor.

Execution:

  • Move your palms slightly ahead of your shoulders, and keep your knees shoulder width apart.
  • Slowly move your head down between your arms, until your forehead is almost touching the mat.
  • Hold the pose for 15 - 20 seconds.
  • Slowly return to your starting position.
  • Repeat for 2 - 3 reps.

What Muscles Does This Stretch Engage?

While this stretch may only engage the latissimus dorsi, it offers the best balance of shoulder stretches and a relaxing pose we’d normally associate only with yoga. Combined with breathing techniques (such as those found in nada yoga), these shoulder stretches can have a profound effect.

How Long Should I Hold This Stretch For?

We would recommend holding this stretch for between 15 and 20 seconds, allowing your shoulder muscles to fully open up and feel the benefits of the stretch.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Pushing Too Far Down - Pushing your head too far down during these stretches for shoulder pain can cause unnecessary strain, especially on your back and shoulders.
  • Improper Form - Having the wrong position with your knees or hands can make these shoulder stretches difficult to get into, and not as effective at stretching the intended muscles.

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What Are The Benefits of Shoulder Stretches?

Now that we’ve examined some of the best shoulder stretches for pain and stress relief, it’s important to look at why we might choose to do them. Understanding the connection between stretches for your shoulder blades, and how they benefit us in day-to-day life, can seriously motivate us to include them in our routines.

 

#1 - Increases Mobility

stretches for shoulder pain

One of the main benefits of shoulder stretches is their capacity to improve, and even increase, our mobility and range of motion in our shoulders.

When we perform any of the shoulder mobility stretches, we fully extend our shoulder muscles (predominantly the deltoids), and prepare them for further movement and activity. 

By consistently performing these shoulder blade stretches, we allow our muscles to grow accustomed to being moved in such a way. It also means that our muscle tissue and fibres are more flexible, contributing to the overall level of movement we can achieve with our shoulders.

This is the reason that, in exercises, the more practice you have with a stretch or exercise, the easier it becomes. For instance, stretches are of particular importance to runners - learn more in OriGym comprehensive report on the best stretches for runners.

#2 - Reduces Tension

shoulder stretches for pain

One of the key areas where we store our stresses and tensions is in our shoulders. While we’re all aware of equipment like massage balls, and expensive spa treatments, these might not always be feasible or affordable. That’s where shoulder stretches really shine.

By extending the muscles, and providing a moment of respite and relief, our shoulders can shed some of this tension, and therefore reduce the amount of latent tension that can often stick in our shoulders.

Using stretches to relieve shoulder pain and tension is not only simple and effective, it also helps to prevent tension and stress from manifesting itself in future. 

Shoulder stretches make our muscles more limber and prepared, and by extending these muscle fibres and tissue, they’re less likely to harbour stress, and hold on to the worries and distractions we experience on a daily basis.

#3 - Relieves Pain

shoulder blade stretches

Arguably the most important benefit of shoulder muscle stretches is their ability to reduce and relieve pain, whether that’s from past injuries, bad posture, or even just lingering issues. 

As we’ve already discussed, when we stretch, we extend our muscle fibres to their full length, which in turn prepares them for further usage and exercise, and makes it easier for them to deal with pressure and pain.

When we have pain already, though, it can often be difficult to deal with outside of medications and bed rest. Shoulder stretches for pain can help provide fast and effective relief by extending those muscle fibres to be more resistant to the pain we might be feeling.

The science supports this, too. In a recent study, stretches for shoulder pain were found to be incredibly effective in combating tightness across the neck and shoulders, even over a small period of time. 

By incorporating shoulder stretches into your rest days (learn more about the importance of rest days in OriGym’s thorough overview) and your workout days, you can seriously start to see the benefits of using shoulder stretches for pain and for mobility.

What Causes Shoulder Soreness?

best shoulder stretches

While there are a multitude of benefits to shoulder stretches, it’s also important to understand the root cause, and how we come to need shoulder stretches for pain in the first place.

Sadly, there isn’t a singular answer to this question, especially as causes can vary depending on a variety of factors. However, we’ve compiled a short list of what we feel are the most common causes of shoulder pain:

  • Stress and tension
  • Injuries
  • Carrying heavy loads 
  • Improper posture (this is one of the most common causes of shoulder pain and tightness)
  • Arthritis 
  • Specific Medical Issues, such as frozen shoulder

These issues can all be mitigated by utilising shoulder stretches properly, and ensuring that you don’t overexert yourself during some of the more difficult or complicated stretches for shoulder pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

 

How Can I Prevent Shoulder Soreness?

dynamic shoulder stretches

Of course, we all want to try and avoid shoulder soreness in the first place, especially as it can be a huge hindrance when it comes to achieving workout goals, or even just completing day-to-day tasks.

Fortunately, all of the shoulder stretches we’ve just looked at not only function as good shoulder stretches for pain, but they go a long way towards preventing the issues from occurring in the first place.

Utilising these shoulder stretches as a preventative measure is an excellent idea, and it can also help with improving your overall posture, which can be another contributing factor to shoulder soreness and discomfort.

It may also be a good idea to work on relaxing breathing techniques (such as pranayama, or box breathing) to mitigate against the soreness that we might associate with stress and tension.

These can also be implemented as part of the shoulder stretches we’ve just examined, or in more focused practices such as pilates or yoga.

Before You Go!

While it’s important to recognise that we’ll all experience shoulder soreness at some point, using some of these exceptionally good shoulder stretches can not only help with the pain that comes with shoulder issues, but shoulder stretches help to mitigate against their root causes.

Finding the right balance for you between the shoulder stretches for pain that work for you, and incorporating them into your daily routine (even if it’s just a few shoulder stretches at your desk), is crucial and can make a huge difference.

Or if you’re looking to take that shoulder stretch expertise even further, then a career in fitness could be your calling.

OriGym’s internationally recognised and accredited personal training courses lead the industry, offering unparalleled levels of support and guidance, 7-days-a-week expert advice, unlimited access to a vast library of resources, and guaranteed post-course interviews. And all with flexible, 0% interest finance plans!

Download our comprehensive prospectus today, and learn more about our packages, and what it could mean for you.

References

  1. Harshbarger, N. D., Eppelheimer, B. L., McLeod, T. C. V., & McCarty, C. W. (2013). The Effectiveness of Shoulder Stretching and Joint Mobilizations on Posterior Shoulder Tightness, Journal of Sport Rehabilitation, 22(4), 313-319. Retrieved Jun 14, 2021, from http://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jsr/22/4/article-p313.xml

Written by Chris Allsobrook

Editor

Chris is a former English teacher, turned content editor. He holds a first-class honours degree in English Language and Creative Writing from the University of Central Lancashire, before going on to complete his teacher training, and obtain a PGCE at Liverpool John Moore’s.

Chris is a keen runner and is currently undertaking both his fitness instructing and personal training qualifications here at OriGym. 

Outside of fitness, you’ll often find him gaming, watching the football, cooking, or spending time with his family.

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