When in Doubt, Stretch It Out: The Best Stretches for Shoulder Pain

shoulder stretch

Take a minute to stop, breathe, and focus on your shoulders. What do you feel? Pain, tension and stress? If not, lucky you! If so, welcome to the club. Shoulder pain is extremely common and affects so many of us that spend our time sitting behind our desk – practicing our “I’m concentrating way too hard to worry about good posture” position.

Fun fact, the shoulder is the most mobile joint in our body. This makes it awesome for things like lifting weights, climbing, or basically anything else you use your arms for, but not so awesome for anyone who experiences stress, does hardcore workouts on the regular, or forgets to add those essential neck and shoulder stretches into their routine, since it’s also one of the most unstable and easily injured body parts. Now that we’re all suddenly paying attention to our shoulders (it’s about time!) let’s check out some of the best shoulder stretches to reduce that pain:

Child’s Pose

You don’t need to be a master yogi to incorporate some yoga moves into your stretching routine. This one will really open up your shoulders and chest, and as a bonus, is super relaxing.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Kneel on the ground with your knees hip-width apart and your feet behind you
  • Sit back on your heels, reach your arms forward, and rest your forehead on the floor
  • Relax your spine and shoulders, pressing your chest into the floor to deepen the stretch
  • Hold this pose for at least 30 seconds, then rest

Across-the-Chest Stretch

across the chest stretch
This super-simple exercise packs a big punch when it comes to relieving tension in your shoulders. Your chest, neck, and back muscles all contribute to shoulder pain, so don’t forget about them!
Here’s how it’s done: 

  • Bring one arm across your chest, and grab above the elbow with the opposite arm, pulling it towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your shoulder
  • Keep your elbow below shoulder-height to avoid further strain
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds, and then switch to the opposite side
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 Thread the Needle

thread the needle stretch
Even though this may sound like a complex position that requires acrobat-level flexibility, it’s actually much easier than you think, and gives you an all-around stretch that also works your back, arms, and neck.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Start on all fours in a tabletop position
  • Pick up your right arm and bring it underneath your body across your chest with your palm facing up
  • Bend your left arm and lower your right shoulder to the ground
  • Gently lean into your right side. You should feel a stretch in your right shoulder
  • Hold for a few seconds, and then switch sides and repeat

Neck Release

neck stretches
This exercise is basically the easiest thing you can do to help your shoulders and neck. It can be done sitting at your desk, on your couch watching Orange is the New Black (or other favorite show), standing in line, or literally anywhere else you happen to be.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Lower your head forward to stretch the back of your neck
  • Tilt your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder
  • Hold for a few seconds, and then gently bring your head around to the other side
  • Repeat 3-5 times on each side

Overhead Triceps and Shoulder Stretch

tricep stretch
Look, another do-anywhere, easy-peasy exercise! Are you sensing a pattern? This one incorporates the triceps and is amazing for relieving tension after a hard workout, or long day behind a desk.

Here’s how it’s done:

  • Extend your arm upwards, bend your elbow and reach your hand down to touch your back between your shoulder blades
  • Use your other hand to grab your elbow and slowly pull until you feel a stretch in your shoulder and the back of your arm
  • Keep your bicep close to your ear, and be very gentle to not cause any further strain

By this point, you may have fallen back into your slightly hunched, tensed back, weirdly leaning position (how did we know?). But now that you’ve seen how easy stretching your shoulders can be, there’s no more excuses not to try it! Go ahead, we’ll wait. But remember, if you have shoulder pain that feels abnormal, impacts your regular movements, or lasts more than a few days, go see a doctor—it may be more than just normal tension.

At Studio SWEAT onDemand, safety is top priority. Whether you choose Spin, TRX, HIIT, Yoga, or any other workout from our huge library of virtual classes, stretching is always essential. And just like these super easy shoulder stretches, our classes are available to stream anywhere, anytime. The best part is that all of our workouts feature real people getting real results, and having a blast while doing it! Sign up for our 7-Day Free Trial to get started, and don’t forget to limber up!