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Published on: 18-Jul-2019

Shoulder stretches can help relieve muscle tension, pain, and tightness in the neck and shoulders. Stiff or tight shoulders can cause discomfort and limit a person’s range of motion. If the tightness goes unchecked, it can lead to neck pain and cause tension headaches. In this article, we describe 10 shoulder stretches and their benefits. We also discuss what causes shoulder tightness and how to prevent it.

1. Neck stretches

Neck stretches gifNeck stretches can help release tension at the top of the shoulders. To do a neck stretch:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Let the arms hang down by the sides.
  • Look forward.
  • Tip the head to the right, trying to touch the right ear to the right shoulder.
  • Feel the stretch in the left side of the neck and shoulder.
  • Tip the head to the left, trying to touch the left ear to the left shoulder.
  • Feel the stretch in the right side of the neck and shoulder.Each time, hold the position for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat this three times on each side.

2. Shoulder rolls

Shoulder rolls stretch or exercise. Image credit: Cancer Research UK, 2004Shoulder rolls are an easy way to stretch the shoulders. To do shoulder rolls:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Let the arms hang down at the sides of the body.
  • Breathe in and lift the shoulders up toward the ears.
  • Move the shoulders back, squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • Exhale and drop the shoulders back.
  • Move the elbows forward, feeling the stretch at the back of the shoulders.
  • Repeat this 10 times.

3. Pendulum stretch

The pendulum is a gentle way to increase movement in the shoulder using the force of gravity. To do this stretch:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Lean forward and look at the ground.
  • Place the right hand on a table or chair for support.
  • Let the left arm hang down.
  • Swing the left arm gently in small circular motions, letting gravity do most of the work.
  • Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
  • Change the direction of the motion.
  • Repeat this, using the other arm.

4. Cross-body arm swings

Arm swings help warm up the shoulder joint and increase movement. To do cross-body arm swings:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Inhale and lift the arms out to the sides, squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • Exhale and gently bring the arms in toward each other.
  • Cross the right arm under the left, keeping both arms straight.
  • Inhale and swing the arms back out to the sides, squeezing the shoulder blades together.
  • Exhale, and gently swing the arms in toward each other again.
  • This time, cross the left arm under the right, keeping both arms straight.
  • Repeat this 10 times.

5. Cross-body shoulder stretch

Man doing Cross-body shoulder stretch for arm warmupThe cross-body shoulder stretch helps extend the back of the shoulder. To do this stretch:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Stretch the right arm out straight.
  • Bring the right arm across the body, so that the hand points to the floor on the other side of the left leg.
  • Bend the left arm at the elbow.
  • Hook the left forearm under the right arm, supporting the right arm above the elbow.
  • Use the left forearm to pull the right arm further in and across the body, stretching the back of the right shoulder.
  • Hold this for 20 seconds, then repeat the stretch on the other side.

6. Child’s Pose

Childs pose yogaChild’s Pose is a gentle yoga pose that can help stretch the back of the shoulders. To do this pose:

  • Kneel on the ground or a mat.
  • Touch the big toes together.
  • Spread the knees apart.
  • Sit up straight.
  • Inhale and reach the arms above the head.
  • Exhale and bow forward, toward the floor, reaching the arms out in front.
  • Touch the ground with the palms.
  • Bring the elbows to the ground.
  • Sit back, bringing the bottom of the back toward the heels.
  • Feel the stretch in the back of the shoulders.
  • Breathe deeply, and hold the position for 1 minute or longer.

7. Ragdoll Pose

Ragdoll yoga pose person bent over ad holding elbows for shoulder stretchRagdoll Pose is a forward-bend yoga pose that may help release tension in the shoulders. To do Ragdoll Pose:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend the knees slightly.
  • Bend forward and try to touch the toes.
  • Keep the stomach against the bent knees to support the lower back.
  • Place each hand on the elbow of the opposite arm.
  • The crown of the head should point toward the floor.
  • Let the head hang heavily, releasing tension in the neck and shoulders.
  • Stay in the pose for 1 minute or longer.

8. Eagle arm stretch

Eagle arm yoga pose for stretching arms and shouldersThe eagle arm stretch is inspired by the upper body position in the Eagle Pose in yoga. This stretch may increase flexibility in the shoulders. To do it:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Inhale and lift the arms to the sides.
  • Exhale and swing the arms in toward the body.
  • Allow the right arm to cross under the left.
  • Cradle the left elbow in the crook of the right elbow.
  • Bring the palms together if they reach.
  • If the palms are not touching, hold the backs of the hands together.
  • Take three or four deep breaths.
  • Release the stretch and repeat it on the other side, with the left arm crossed under the right.

9. Cow Face pose

Cow face yoga stretch for arm and shoulder exerciseThe Cow Face pose is another yoga stretch for the shoulders. To do the Cow Face pose:

  • Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
  • Reach the right arm up straight toward the sky.
  • Bend the right arm at the elbow.
  • Keeping the elbow raised, reach the right hand over the head and down the back.
  • Stretch the left arm down toward the ground.
  • Reach the left hand behind and up the back.
  • Bring the left and right hands close together, clasping them if it feels comfortable.
  • Take three or four deep breaths.
  • Release the stretch and repeat it on the other side.

10. Side-lying thoracic rotation

Side-lying thoracic rotationThe side-lying thoracic rotation may sound complicated, but it is easy to do. This shoulder stretch helps improve mobility in the thoracic spine, lumbar spine, and shoulders.

To do a side-lying thoracic rotation:

  • Lay on your right side on the ground or a mat.
  • Bend the knees slightly.
  • Stretch the right arm straight ahead.
  • Place the left hand on top of the right.
  • Keep your gaze fixed on the left hand.
  • Reach the left hand straight up.
  • Rotate the left arm toward the floor behind the back, as if drawing an arch in the air.
  • Keep the knees and hips pointing to the right throughout.
  • Bring the left arm back over to meet the right hand.
  • Repeat the drawing motion several times.
  • Then, practice it on the other side.

By Lana Burgess for MNT home

The post Top 10 stretches for shoulder tightness appeared first on Sports Medicine Weekly.