Shoulder pain and tightness in the shoulders is something many of us suffer on a day-to-day basis. According to a study reported by The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), it affects 18 to 26 percent of adults. However, generally, many of us tend to ignore or do nothing about it. This is definitely the wrong attitude, because, if shoulder pain or shoulder tightness is ignored or unchecked, in the long run it can cause pain or stiffness in your neck, back, and upper body, and limit your range of motion.
What Are the Reasons for Shoulder Pain and Tightness?
The shoulder – a ball and socket joint with a wide range of movement – tends to be more vulnerable to injury. Most shoulder problems involve a small area and would last a relatively short time, but sometimes it could be part of a long-term condition such as osteoarthritis.
Apart from that, those who work in an office or has a stressful desk-based job, maintain a poor posture and have to look at a computer screen for long periods, are more likely to experience shoulder pain. Along with these, there are several other possible causes of shoulder pain, such as:
- Strain from overexertion
- Injured muscles and tendons around the shoulder
- Shoulder joint instability
- Collar or upper arm bone fractures
- Frozen shoulder
- Pinched nerve
- Improper posture and alignment of your body
- Sitting for extended periods
- Working at a badly positioned laptop or desktop
- Incorrect sleeping position
- Overuse of a cell phone
- Carrying heavy bags
- Damage to the bones and cartilage (caused by arthritis)
Sometimes neck pain can also cause pain in your shoulder which is known as referred pain or radiated pain. If you’re sensing a tingling feeling in your hand or arm, as well as pain in your shoulder, it’s likely to be from a problem in your neck. In such cases, you have to treat your neck pain first, instead of treating shoulder pain.
Can Shoulder Pain Be Treated with Stretches?
With regular stretching and plenty of exercise, you can treat your shoulder pain and prevent the shoulder muscles from becoming tight.
Shoulder stretches reduce tension, relieve pain, increase mobility, improve posture and reduce the risk of muscle and joint injury. This is because when a muscle stretches, its fibers and the surrounding fascia, or bands of connective tissue, extend to full length, which improves the ability of the muscle and fascia to extend during activities. Several researches suggest that stretching alone is as effective as it provides numerous potential health benefits.
5 Stretches for Shoulder Pain and Tightness
Let’s dive into the 5 best stretches that would help in relieving pain and tightness in your shoulder.
- Pendulum stretch: This stretch is a gentle way to increase movement, improve flexibility, and reduce pain in the shoulder using the force of gravity. Start doing this stretch, by:
- First relaxing your shoulders and standing with the feet hip-width apart.
- Lean forward, place the right hand on a table or chair for support.
- Relax the left arm and let it hang straight down
- Slowly start to swing the left arm gently in small circular motions (about a foot in diameter)
- Continue for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Change the direction of your movement after 1 minute of the motion.
- Repeat this, using the other arm.
- As your shoulder pain symptoms improve, you can increase the diameter of your swing or increase the stretch by holding a light weight (three to five pounds) in the swinging arm, but never force it.
- Neck stretch: This stretch helps release tension at the top of the shoulders and loosen postural muscles, thus reducing neck pain. To do a neck stretch, you have to:
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart and let your arms hang down by the sides.
- Tilt the head to the right and feel the stretch in the left side of the neck and shoulder.
- Then, tilt the head to the left, and feel the stretch in the right side of the neck and shoulder.
- Repeat 3 times on each side and hold the position for 10 seconds, while doing each time.
- Shoulder Rolls: This is an easy de-stress workout to stretch the shoulders and loosen up the shoulder muscles. To do this, you have to:
- Stand with the feet shoulder width apart and arms to your sides.
- Let the arms hang down at the sides of the body.
- Breathe in and keep your back straight.
- Rotate the shoulders in a forward direction making big circles with them.
- Then rotate them backwards.
- Repeat this 10 times.
- Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch: This stretch is a great warm-up exercise prior to sports or upper-body training as it stretches the upper back and the rear shoulder. To do this:
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart or sit tall.
- Grab your right arm above your elbow with your left hand.
- Pull it across your body toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your shoulder.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and make sure to keep your elbow below shoulder height.
- Let go and repeat stretching your other arm.
- Reverse Prayer Pose: Also known as Penguin Pose, this stretch helps massage and loosen any tight shoulder muscles, and relaxes your shoulder blades. To do this pose:
- Either sit tall, stand in mountain pose and bend your knees slightly.
- Relax your shoulders and bring your hands behind your back & grab the opposite elbow with the opposite hand.
- Take 5 deep breaths and slowly join your palms together in prayer pose with your fingertips facing down.
- From here as you inhale, flip your hands in the other direction so that your fingers tips are now facing up.
- Hold this pose for 30 seconds.
There are more stretches such as downward dog pose, child pose, eagle arm stretch, upper trapezius stretch, cat cow pose and so on. All these stretching and strengthening stretches will help improve flexibility, increase your range of motion, and bring greater comfort and ease to your movements.
Take necessary steps or treatment to relieve your shoulder pain or tightness, because, early treatment can reduce the risk for complications. However, if your shoulder tightness doesn’t improve once you start stretching, or if you are experiencing a serious injury, or get a sudden, continuous pain, make sure that you visit your doctor or take professional advice.