Tightness in the shoulders is often an underlying cause of a myriad of problems including neck pain, mid-upper back pain, and tension headaches. Individuals who spend a significant amount of time at a desk or working at a computer are especially susceptible to carrying tension in the shoulders. Below are five of the best stretches to relieve tight shoulders.
Cross Arm Stretch
The cross arm stretch is an excellent way to stretch the posterior deltoids (the back of the
shoulders). Begin by bringing the arm to be stretched across the body, keeping the elbow
straight. Using the opposite hand, grab the front of the elbow and pull across the body until a
gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat three times.
The pec stretch (short for pectorals) focuses on the muscles of the chest. These muscles
become tight from sitting with poor posture and rounded shoulders, placing the pectoral muscles
in a shortened position contributing to back pain. To perform this stretch, stand in a doorway
with arms placed at a 90 degree angle at the elbow. With forearms on the door facing, lean
forward until a gentle stretch is felt through the chest. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat three
To stretch the back of the arms, begin by lifting the first arm over head and bending at the elbow
so fingers are pointed down the back. Using the opposite hand, gently pull the elbow back until
a gentle stretch is felt. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat three times.
Anterior and Lateral Neck Stretches
Stretching both the anterior and the lateral neck muscles can alleviate tension that feels as if it
runs from the neck to the shoulders. Begin by tilting the chin slightly back and bringing the ear
towards the shoulder. Do not shrug shoulders in order to “make them touch.” Hold for 15-20
seconds. To stretch the lateral neck muscles turn head to look over opposite shoulder and drop
chin towards the shoulder. Hold for 15-20 seconds and repeat these two stretches three times
on each side.
Overhead Wall Stretch
Standing 6-8 inches from the wall, place hands overhead on the wall, pinky side of hands
pressed firmly agains the wall. Gradually allow yourself to sink down keeping your abdominal
muscles engaged and hold for 15-20 seconds. Repeat three times for a good stretch not only
for the shoulder but to help alleviate back pain as well.
It is not necessary to carry stress across the shoulders any more! By being proactive with
shoulder stretches, one can expect to see an decrease in neck and back pain as well.
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