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best stretches for shoulder pain relief

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stretch affect
September 10, 2020

Shoulder pain is one of the most common types of muscular pain, and Stretch Affect specializes in stretches for shoulder pain relief. Shoulder pain can be debilitating and may create imbalances of the core, ultimately affecting posture, how you sit, and how you walk. Don’t let shoulder pain rule your life; instead, try these stretches for shoulder pain relief. They’re simple, effective, and can be done as an at-home practice or even as part of an office workout.  Bosses know that employees who take breaks to move during the day are more intellectually productive (if yours doesn’t, show them that Forbes article).

Neck and Spine

Deskwork often leads to poor posture. A consistently bent neck and curved spine lead to shoulder pain. Essential components of your core strength, your neck, and spine affect how your shoulders sit in relation to the rest of your body. Take a few minutes every few hours to do some office stretching.

Start by warming up your neck and spine muscles before moving to the shoulders for a more effective stretch session. You can hold each of these stretches for up to a minute, and perform them on both sides 3–5 times.

Neck Release

Neck releases are a way to take the tension out of your neck and shoulders. Slowly lower your chin up and down towards your chest and back. You should feel a stretch that goes along the back of your neck and possibly even down past your neck and into the shoulder blades. With your chin still tucked, tilt your head to one side to stretch the opposite shoulder. Hold this position for up to one minute, and then return to the middle before repeating on the other side.

The following videos are a good place to start:

Across-the-Chest Stretch

Across-the-chest stretch is a common stretch we use to promote shoulder joint flexibility. To start this stretch, straighten your arm in front of you and bring it across your chest. Place your opposite hand on the joint of your elbow, gently supporting it. Use the supporting arm to pull your outstretched arm towards your body, opening up the shoulder and shoulder blade muscles.


When your chest is tight, the chest muscles contract your overall posture to bring the fronts of your shoulders closer. The hunched, rounded-shoulder posture weakens the back muscles that promote a strong and straight back. Add these chest stretches to relieve shoulder pain to your office stretching routine.

Chest Expansion

You’ll need something soft and flexible for a chest expansion — an exercise band, towel, or even a spare t-shirt will work. Hold the band or fabric behind your back, just behind your hips. Slowly lift the band or towel upwards, keeping your arms straight. As you do so, open your chest, pull your shoulder blades together, and lift your chin as you look towards the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds, and perform 3–5 times.

PAILs RAILs Pectoralis Stretch

PAILs and RAILs stand for Progressive and Regressive Angular Isometric Loading stretches. They are used to improve limitations in joint movements that have occurred from disuse, postural demands, or injury, and they can be extremely effective in mediating shoulder pain. For this stretch, stand next to a wall. Extend the arm closest to the wall, and place the palm of your hand against it. Using your body weight, lean into the wall to pull on your deltoids and the pectoralis, or chest muscles. You can increase the intensity of the stretch by rotating your hips towards the wall. See our video here for a visual explanation.


Once the surrounding muscles are feeling stretched and loose, it’s time to hit the shoulders! Try these stretches for shoulder pain and others for better mobility and flexibility.

Shoulder Extension and Flexion

Shoulder extensions are a nice, simple movement to warm up the shoulder. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your arms at your sides. Take one arm and move it behind the body in a straight, backward motion. Keep your palm facing your body, and stop when your arm reaches a 45-degree angle. Bring it back to center, and then repeat 8–10 times on each side. Perform up to three sets.

Shoulder flexion is a similar stretch in the opposite direction. Maintain a similar stance. Raise one straightened arm up until it is parallel with the rest of your body. Then lower it back down. Repeat 8–10 times on each side, with up to three sets.

View our videos on shoulder extensions and shoulder flexion on our YouTube channel for a visual demonstration.

Shoulder Circles

Stand next to the back of a chair. Place the hand nearest to the chair on the back of it, and allow your opposite arm to hang. With the hanging arm’s shoulder joint relaxed, circle your hand clockwise five times. Then, circle counterclockwise five times. Perform on both sides, up to 3 times per day.

Doorway Shoulder Stretch

The doorway shoulder stretch is like the PAILs RAILs Pectoralis Stretch, but with the aim of more directly opening your chest by strengthening the shoulders. Stand in a doorway, and make a 90-degree angle with one of your arms at the elbow. Rest your palm and forearm on the side of the doorway. While pressing your arm against the doorway, lean forward and step the foot of the same side forward. Deepen the stretch by turning away from that arm to open the shoulder and chest even more. Repeat on each side 2–3 times, holding the stretch for 30 seconds each time.

Yoga Inspired Shoulder Stretching

Pain relief is one of the many documented benefits of yoga. By relying on stretching to relieve pain, yoga helps keep medications to a minimum. To finish off your workout, engage in some relaxing stretches inspired by yoga poses that incorporate the whole body and help your shoulders return to a neutral position.

Downward Dog for Shoulders

Start in a high plank position with your arms extended. Press into the heels of your palms as you lift your hips towards the ceiling until your body reaches an upside-down V-position. Be sure to keep your spine straight, avoid locking your knees, and bring your head toward your feet so your shoulders stay flexed over your head. Hold for up to one minute.

Child’s Pose

For Child’s Pose, kneel on the floor with your toes together and knees hip-width apart. As you exhale, lower your torso between your knees and extend your arms past your head with your palms facing down. Allow your shoulders to relax as if falling towards the floor, and allow your spine to relax as well. This pose can be held for up to five minutes!

Get a Personalized Shoulder Pain Stretch Routine at Stretch Affect

The physical therapists and specialists of Stretch Affect help people just like you reduce pain and become more limber with assisted stretching and manual therapy. Our clients are thrilled when they return to a pain-free life full of the activities they love.

We believe everyone deserves to understand their body. Our consultations and physical assessments build complete mobility solutions for a wide range of issues and clients. The stretches delineated in this blog post will get you started with the best stretches for shoulder pain.
If you’re still experiencing pain despite these stretches, you may need tailored exercises that match your issues, weight, condition, age, and more. View more of our stretch exercises on our YouTube channel, or contact us today at (619) 389-3718 to schedule your first Stretch Affect session.

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