The Top 10 Stretches for Tight Shoulders

by Chris Miquel January 04, 2016

The Top 10 Stretches for Tight Shoulders


  • The amount of time spent with forward head and shoulder posturing increases the stress on the soft tissue and joints in the area.
  • The shoulder is not just a joint on its own; it's part of the neck, the ribs and the scapula. It's a whole complex, so when stretching it, you have to take look at each muscle involved.

The human shoulder is one of the more bio-mechanically complex joints because it has the greatest range of motion in the body. As such, there are numerous muscles, tendons, ligaments and blood vessels surrounding the shoulder, which provide flexibility and support, but it also makes the area prone to tightness and injury. Performing shoulder stretches on a regular basis, particularly before strenuous exercise involving the upper body, may help reduce the risk of muscle strain and other injuries.

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1. Chin Retractions

This movement is perfect for someone who works in an office, staring at a computer screen all day. Move your chin forward, then slowly pull it back by slightly tucking it in toward your throat. Try to keep chin parallel to the floor and straight. Repeat hourly up to 10 times.

2. Shoulder Rolls

For such a simple exercise, shoulder rolls provide a lot of benefits. They increase range of motion in the shoulders and upper back, improve posture and release throat tension. From a position of proper alignment, roll shoulders up, then back, then down in a fluid motion. Repeat this movement about 10 times, then reverse it, rolling forward about 10 times.

3. Neck Stretches

When people get stressed out they tend to scrunch up their neck muscles. Unfortunately, once the stress has gone, these muscles stay tensed up. This exercise will help with this common problem. Bend right ear to the right shoulder. Place right hand over left temple and add a little extra pressure by gently pushing the head to the right. Repeat on the left side. Hold for 30 seconds each.

4. Cow-Face Pose

This classic yoga pose can significantly increase range of motion in your shoulder joints. Extend your left arm up towards the sky. Then, bring your left hand down to the center of your back. Reach your right arm out to the same side, parallel to the floor. Rotate the arm inward until your palm faces the sky above.This movement should put your shoulder in correct position for the next one. Sweep your right arm behind near your lower back. Keeping your spine long, hook fingers or hold hands behind your back. Then, lift your left elbow toward the sky and draw your right elbow toward the ground.

5. Shoulder Rotation

With your back to a wall, bring both elbows out to 90 degrees (so the sides of your biceps are in contact with the wall). Without moving the position of your elbows, turn right arm upward, so back of the right hand touches the wall, and left arm downward, so left palm touches the wall. Slowly switch arms for about 30 seconds, trying to keep arms at 90 degrees throughout.

6. Standing Wall Stretch

Place both hands on a wall so they form a 90-degree angle to your body. Walk feet back until arms are straight and bow, hinging forward at the hips. (Do not push on the wall, and do not allow your arms to raise up too high, in order to avoid a shoulder impingement.) Keep shoulder blades set back and avoid scrunching shoulders around the neck.

7. T, Y, and I Movements

Stand with back against the wall and move arms up until you form a “T” shape, continue to bring your arms up to a “Y” shape, and then finish by raising your arms above your head, forming an “I” shape. Make sure to keep your back against the wall the entire time.

8. Arm Circles

Arm circles are small, repetitive arm movements that can help tone and stretch the muscles of your arms and shoulders, including your trapezius and deltoids. To do an arm circle, stand up straight with your arms extended out on either side of your body. Slowly move your arms in circles without rotating your wrists or elbows. As you become accustomed to the motion, pick up the pace for a more intense workout, while still focusing on maintaining proper form.

9. Thread the Needle

This yoga inspired pose is great for stretching your shoulder and many of the muscle surrounding it. On you hands and knees, slide the right hand between the left hand and left knee. Slide the arm all the way out to the left so that the right shoulder and side of the head rest comfortably on the floor. Inhale and reach the left hand up towards the ceiling or place on the ground under your head for extra support.

10. Sphinx Pose With Arm Extension

Lie facedown on the floor, with arms bent at your side and palms on the ground about even with your chest, fingertips facing forward. Peel chest up, leaving hands in the same position and feeling an arch in the upper back only. Begin alternating forward arm extensions, holding each for 5 seconds.

Original Article: 16 Simple Stretches for Tight Shoulders,, 11/25/15

Chris Miquel
Chris Miquel


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