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7 Easy Comfortable Stretches To Relieve And Loosen Shoulder Tension And Aches

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Stiff, tight shoulders are one of the most common complaints among all people today—especially anyone who spends extended amounts of time slumped at a desk or sitting behind a steering wheel. This position causes our upper back to round forward, our chest to tighten, and our shoulders to lift and compress, all leading to very poor posture and eventual shoulder pain and tightness.

It’s not just poor posture, though, that can make your upper body feel super tense. Your shoulders may become tight as a result of poor posture, muscle tension, overuse (for example, too many push-ups), or even stress.

Strengthening the core and upper body, including your back and shoulders, is a great way to improve your posture over time and help get rid of shoulder pain. And your shoulders specifically may benefit immensely from rotator cuff exercises, which strengthen and stabilise the small muscles that help keep the ball-and-socket joint in place.

But if shoulder tension and tightness are what plague you, doing some shoulder stretches can provide short-term relief. Also, it’s important to pay close attention to what you’re feeling. Tightness isn’t so much to be worried about, and stretching is a good way to improve that. Pain is another story.

Upper Trapezius Stretch:

Stretches: the upper trapezius (neck).

How to:

  • Start standing or sitting tall, and place one hand on your lower back, the other hand on the opposite side of your head.
  • Pull your head toward your shoulder, looking straight ahead, until you feel a stretch in your neck.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Child’s Pose:

Stretches: the trapezius (neck), latissimus dorsi (back), and muscles of the shoulder including the infraspinatus, teres major, and teres minor.

How to:

  • Kneel on your mat with your knees wider than hip-width apart and your feet together behind you.
  • Sit back on your heels and fold forward, resting your belly on your thighs.
  • Extend your arms out in front of you and rest your forehead on the floor.
  • You’ll feel this stretch in your shoulders and back, in addition to your hips and glutes.
  • Gently press your chest and shoulders toward the ground to deepen the stretch.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.

Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch:

Stretches: the shoulder muscles, including the deltoid, teres minor, and supraspinatus.

How to:

  • Start standing or sitting tall.
  • Grab one arm above your elbow with your opposite hand, and pull it across your body toward your chest until you feel a stretch in your shoulder.
  • Make sure to keep your elbow below shoulder height.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Bent-Arm Shoulder Stretch:

Stretches: the shoulder muscles, including the deltoid, teres minor, supraspinatus, and trapezius.

How to:

  • Start standing or sitting tall.
  • Place one arm across your body and bend your elbow to 90 degrees, with your hand pointing up.
  • Using your other arm, pull your elbow toward your opposite shoulder.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Overhead Triceps and Shoulder Stretch:

Stretches: the deltoid and triceps.

How to:

  • Start standing or sitting tall.
  • Bring one arm overhead and drop your forearm behind you, resting your hand on your back between your shoulder blades.
  • With your other hand, grab right above your bent elbow and pull gently, until you feel a stretch in your shoulder and the back of your arm.
  • Try to keep your bicep close to your ear, and don’t force it past.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.

Reverse Shoulder Stretch:

Stretches: the deltoids and the pectoral muscles.

How to:

  • Start standing tall, fingers interlocked behind you near your butt.
  • Keeping your back straight and shoulder blades together, push your arms up until you feel the stretch in your pecs.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.

Downward Facing Dog:

Stretches: shoulder muscles, including the deltoids, supraspinatus, trapezius, and rhomboids.

How to:

  • Start on your hands and knees, with your hands stacked under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Spread your hands wide and press your index finger and thumb into your mat.
  • Lift your tailbone and press your butt up and back, drawing your hips toward the ceiling.
  • Straighten your legs as best as you can and press your heels gently toward the floor.
  • Your head should be relaxed between your arms, facing your knees.
  • Your back should be flat.
  • Hold for at least 30 seconds.
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