Top shoulder stretches for pain and tightness

shoulder stretches

It’s no secret that we live in a world of constant stress. Our shoulders are constantly tight and sore as a result. Here are some stretches that can help to relieve tension and pain in the shoulder area.

Hanging arms

A snow covered slope

Stand under a sturdy object, beams or rafters are good. Lift your hands above your head, palms facing the ceiling. Let yourself hang for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat several times if you can do it without pain. This is very good for anyone suffering from stiff neck and shoulders as well as lower back pain because it stretches out the pecs, lats, teres major and minor, latissimus dorsi muscles which are all used whenever you lift your arm overhead. I have seen this stretch pack some serious results in just two weeks! It can also help with depression because hanging like this stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which allows the body to relax more easily.

Neck stretch

A person sitting on a sunny window

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Extend your right arm forward and tip your head to the left. Repeat on both sides several times. This stretches out the muscles in the back of the neck and may help with headaches.

Overhead stretch

Standing or sitting tall reach your arms straight up over your head while keeping a slight bend in the elbows. Try to touch the ceiling if possible while holding for 30 seconds to a minute. This will release any tightness at the top of the chest and upper back muscles. Use caution not to lift shoulders towards ears when doing this one because it can add an unnecessary amount of stress from being pulled from this position across other parts of the body.

Crossed arm stretch

This is a safe, easy way to stretch the shoulders and strengthen the upper back. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. Reach over your head with your right arm and bend at the elbow until you can place your hand behind the base of your left ear (like you’re giving yourself a high five). Keep both shoulders down as much as possible by engaging them first before reaching up towards ears; this will help to avoid “shoulder creep” which causes too much stress through other parts of the body. Try not to lean forward or shrug shoulders while doing this one because it defeats the purpose of stretching out tightness in that area. Once these are stretched consistently they become very easy to do without thinking about them or consciously doing them. Over time they can start to feel like second nature which is a big plus to your overall flexibility and wellness.

Room stretch

This is a great way for travelers to stay limber while away from home. It’s also good for those who sit behind a desk all day long. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, arms outstretched in front of you at waist height then lean back as far as possible without pain and repeat several times before returning upright again. This will take some time so don’t be shocked if it takes 30 seconds or so just to lean back an inch! This one got my shoulders feeling better than ever after about two weeks of doing it for about a minute each day.

Cow face arms

This is a great all-around shoulder stretch that can be done at your desk or even when standing in line at the grocery store! Lift both arms so they are parallel to the ground with palms facing down towards the floor. Gently cross one arm in front of the opposite shoulder and hold for a few seconds then switch sides, repeat several times on each side before returning your arms to where they started. This one is super helpful if you have stiff shoulders because it improves flexibility in the chest, lats, traps and also benefits other muscles in the back by releasing any tension held there from this position. Inhale through the nose while lifting your arms and exhale out the mouth as you cross the arms in front of the opposite shoulder.

Forearm stretch

The forearm stretches can be done anywhere and anytime, so they are a breeze to fit into your day! To do these simply grip a sturdy pole or table leg with palms facing down and fingers pointing towards the floor at approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep knees slightly bent for this one then move your chest forward as if you’re going to rest it on top of your hands. Hold position here breathing normally for about 30 seconds to a minute before regaining starting position and repeating several times if desired. This is great because it stretches out all those tight muscles from your wrists up through your shoulders; we use our arms and hands quite on an everyday basis without even thinking about it, so this is a great one to do without much effort.


The stretches we’ve provided are excellent for people who spend a lot of time sitting at their desks or on the go. They can be done in just minutes, so you’ll have no excuse not to do them.

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