The Best Shoulder Stretches

As anyone with a sedentary job can attest, shoulder tension is a common issue.

But while many people suffer from shoulder weakness, tension and more, few know the right shoulder stretch exercises to help alleviate the discomfort and pain.

Therefore, in this article, we’ll explore how to stretch shoulders and go over a few of the best exercises for shoulder pain.

Ready to get started? Then read on below.

Shoulder Rolls

First on the list of shoulder stretches are the shoulder rolls.

This seemingly simple and even intuitive exercise can be an incredibly powerful tool that helps alleviate tension in the shoulders and help them relax.

Simply stand or sit in a chair, with your hands hanging by your side.

Then start lifting your shoulders towards your ears, slowly moving them back at the same time, performing a gentle circle as you bring your shoulders back down.

Shoulder Pendulum

Another great shoulder stretching exercise is the shoulder pendulum.

It works by utilizing the force of gravity to increase the mobility of your shoulder and gently release the tension that can build up over hours of sitting or laying in an uncomfortable position.

Start by standing on your feet and leaning to the ground, and then let one of your arms hang down, completely relaxed.

Then, without using any of your arm muscles, start gently moving the arm, and allow gravity to swing it in a circular or back-and-forth motion, trying to stay as relaxed as possible.

Sit Up Straight

Sometimes, you don’t even need special shoulder stretches to relieve the strain on your shoulders and back.

Whenever you catch yourself hunching over your table, take a few seconds to straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and straighten your neck.

Eventually, you will find that you get used to sitting correctly and will not have as many issues with shoulder aches and pains, reducing the need for sore shoulder exercises.

Neck Stretch

Sometimes, the reason for your shoulder pain could be stiffness and tension in your neck, since these two parts of your body are so connected. Therefore, you should try a simple neck stretch as a way to alleviate some of that tension and help your shoulders relax.

Sit in a straight, comfortable position, place one of your hands behind your back, while placing the other on your head.

Then, pull your head to the side of the arm and hold the stretch, allowing the side muscles of your neck and shoulders to stretch and relax.

Thoracic Rotation Stretch

If you want to stretch not only your shoulders but your upper spine as well, the thoracic rotation back and shoulder stretches are a great choice.

To do the exercise, start by getting on all fours, with your hands straight and facing the ground. Then, grab your head with one of your arms and rotate your head and shoulder to that side. Reverse and perform on the other side as well.

Child’s Pose

One of the best shoulder stretches that you can do is the child’s pose exercise, as it stretches your neck, your shoulder muscles, and your upper back.

Begin by kneeling on the ground with the knees just a bit wider than your shoulders. Extend your arms in front of you, and start bringing your knees down towards your feet, feeling the stretch in your back, shoulder blades, and the neck.

You can try to get your chest and shoulders as close to the ground as possible, increasing the stretch and the benefits that it provides.

Thread the Needle

The thread the needle is one of the best shoulder exercises because it works a range of important shoulder muscle groups, improving range of motion, and helping alleviate tension.

Once again, get on all fours, with your hands facing down below your shoulders. Then, reach to the opposite side underneath your torso with one of your hands, gently twisting your entire body.

This exercise should provide you with a gentle stretch of your shoulder, which you should hold for a few seconds, and then release back, repeating with the other side.

Elbow-Out Rotator Stretch

Another example of excellent shoulder pain relief stretches is the elbow-out rotator stretch.

This exercise should be performed standing up, as it will provide you with more range of motion and help you really stretch those shoulder muscles.

Place one of your hands on the middle of your back, and reach with your other hand through the front of your body, grabbing the other arm’s elbow.

Gently pull the other arm and feel the stretch in your shoulder and the surrounding muscles.

Bent-Arm Shoulder Stretches

You can perform the bent-arm shoulder stretch in a standing position or seated; the important thing is that you feel comfortable and that your back and neck are straight.

Bend one of your arms in a 90-degree angle, pointing your hand up. Then, with the other hand bent the same way, pull the main arm in the exercise toward your opposite shoulder, stretching it.

To get the most out of the exercise, make sure that you hold for at least 15-20 seconds, and then repeat on the other side as well.

Downward Dog

This classic yoga pose is also one of the better shoulder pain exercises because it challenges multiple muscles such as the trapezius, deltoids, and the rhomboids.

To begin, start on all fours, and then start lifting your butt up, straightening your knees until both your arms and legs are straight, and your buttocks are facing upwards.

Make sure that you keep your back and neck straight, and press your heels towards the floor.

Once in position, hold for at least 20 seconds, and don’t be afraid to repeat the stretch a few more times as it’s beneficial not only for your shoulders but for your entire body.

Learn More

Managing shoulder pain and tension can be hard, but with the help of these shoulder blade stretches, you can get short-term relief and improve the mobility of surrounding areas.

If you want help with figuring out the reason for your shoulder pain or want further guidance on how to alleviate it, ShoulderMD is a Seattle orthopedic surgeon that can help. Call us at or fill out a form to contact us today. We’ll walk you through the best course of action in your situation.

Photo by Burst from Pexels

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