Have you been experiencing tightness or pain in your shoulders? You’re not the only one. Shoulder pain can happen to any of us, especially as we age. Thankfully, there are many ways to combat shoulder pain, and one of the simplest ways is with some simple shoulder stretches.
If you haven't realized by now, stretching is super important! And not only before or after exercise, but also as a stand-alone workout that is part of an injury prevention and flexibility routine.
What causes shoulder pain?
A rotator cuff injury: One of the most common physical injuries, the rotator cuff consists of four muscles and tendons that work together to stabilize your shoulders. The pain usually occurs as a result of a tear in this area of the shoulder.
Tendonitis: This condition tends to locate around your shoulders’ rotator cuffs and often is exacerbated through regular movements that require lifting your arm above your head -- think front crawls in swimming or serving in tennis.
Frozen shoulder: Also known as adhesive capsulitis, this painful predicament limits your range of motion and, in especially severe cases, may cause your arm to stiffen up to the point of immobility.
Osteoarthritis: Characterized by damaged joints that radiate chronic pain, this condition can express itself in any area of the body, including in and around the shoulders.
Performing shoulder stretches daily can help with many of these conditions. However, If you think your shoulder pain is something more serious than bad posture or a restless night’s sleep, be sure to visit your doctor so that they can take a closer look.
Shoulder pain prevention
In addition to incorporating neck and shoulder stretches into your day-to-day routine, there are four tweaks you can make to regular activities to avoid developing pain. Here are some prophylactic tips to prevent shoulder and neck pain:
Believe it or not, working on improving your core strength is a great way to prevent and reduce pain. Your core muscles are responsible for stabilizing your body as a whole, and by strengthening them, you may benefit from better posture and in turn, less shoulder pain.
Invest in a better pillow. Sometimes, you get what you pay for, and this definitely applies to pillows, too. No need to spring for the most expensive brand on the market, but at least try to find something that provides your head and neck with the right support. Orthopedic pillows are an excellent option if you struggle with neck or shoulder strains. However, if you’re a side sleeper, you may want to check out body pillows that you can rest your neck on. One size doesn’t fit all, so test out different pillows to find the best fit for you.
Avoid hunching over when using your smartphone. Try to hold your phone up to eye level whenever possible, so you don’t strain the back of your neck. The same goes for your laptop -- invest in a stand so that you're at eye-level and your gaze stays around the top third of the screen.
Set reminders to check your posture during the day. Just a small notification on your calendar or phone can prompt you to correct your posture or perhaps do a couple of quick shoulder stretches at your desk.
Try these shoulder blade stretches
Shoulder stretch across the body
This one’s a classic – it’s effective, reduces stress in the back, and is a great way to open up your shoulders.
Sit or stand with your feet hip-width apart. Keep your chest open and your shoulders pulled back, down, and away from your ears.
While keeping your shoulders pulled back and standing straight, stretch one arm across your chest.
Use the opposite hand to press the arm into your body to create a stretch.
Take a deep breath and hold the stretch for 20 seconds or more.
Repeat the stretch with the opposite arm.
Tricep stretch behind the body
You can’t go wrong with this beneficial stretch. It’s excellent for the triceps as well as for improving your shoulders’ range of motion.
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then reach one arm towards the sky, bending at the elbow.
Drop your hand to the middle of your upper back, palm laid on your spine.
With the opposite hand, grab your elbow and gently pull it across to deepen the stretch.
Breathe deep, relax your neck and shoulders and hold for at least 20 seconds.
Repeat the stretch on your opposite arm.
Standing wall stretch
This stretch may just be the most satisfying one on the list! Give it a shot when you feel you’ve been hunched over all day.
Place both of your hands on a wall so they form a 90-degree angle to your body, like a wall push-up.
Take a few steps back and straighten your arms.
Keeping your palms flat against the wall bow your upper body forward.
Make sure to keep your shoulders back, down and away from your ears.
Take a few deep breaths in this position and relax into the stretch.
The best part about this stretch is that you can do it anywhere – even while sitting in front of your computer screen at work.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (or stay seated if you're in the car or at a desk).
Shrug your shoulders up to your ears, and then roll them forwards in a circular motion.
Repeat the forward circles for 10 to 15 reps.
Do exactly the same movement, yet this time roll your shoulders backward.
Repeat the circular movement for 10 to 15 reps.
Neck and shoulder stretches can make a difference
By adding more neck and shoulder stretches to your day, you can start to relieve stress and even improve the range of motion in this area. Taking just a few moments out of your day to do these simple stretches can help ease pain or discomfort due to hunching over at a computer, wearing a heavy backpack or sleeping in an unusual position.
Remember, taking time for yourself to stretch and be present in your body is the perfect way to release the tension we so often carry on our shoulders, chest, and backs. In this busy world, you deserve to give your body a little love, and shoulder stretches are a great way to do that.