Whether you sit at a desk for eight hours a day or engage in daily activities like driving, phone scrolling, or watching TV, your shoulders tend to tighten up. Exercising muscles unevenly (e.g. too many chest presses and not enough rows) can cause tightness in the shoulders. The issues don’t stop there, though. Your rotator cuff muscles support and stabilize your shoulder joints. Poor posture from hunching over causes all the muscles around the shoulders to tighten up. What you end up with is soreness and lack of mobility in the arms and neck.
Physical therapists agree that the neck and upper back areas hold a lot of tension. The amount of time people spend hunching over computers and phones increases stress on the soft tissue and joints in those areas. Sitting doesn’t do you any favors, and neither does standing if you have poor posture. Fortunately, you can help relieve tension in the shoulders and improve mobility by regularly practicing the following stretches.
Wall Chest Stretch
This stretch aims to relieve tightness in the pectoral muscles and subscapularis. It’s a great opening stretch for your chest and shoulders. Stand up straight with your right shoulder about a foot away from a wall. Reach your right arm back and place your palm on the wall, ensuring it is level with your shoulder. Take a step closer to the wall to feel a stretch through your right shoulder and chest. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Cow Face Pose
This is a great stretch that helps to lengthen the lats, while simultaneously stretching the triceps and opening the shoulders. Stand or sit up straight and bring your left elbow up to the side of your head, dropping your hand down your spine. Ideally, your fingertips should touch between your shoulder blades. Move your right arm behind your back and bend your arm, reaching your right hand towards your left hand. If you can, grab your left fingertips and hold for 20 seconds before repeating on the other side. If you can’t reach your fingertips, use a towel to assist and pull gently in opposite directions to create a stretch. ;
Overhead Shoulder Wall Stretch
Tightness along the top of the shoulder is very common, but seldom do people work to relieve it. This stretch helps get rid of that top shoulder tightness. Stand up straight with your right shoulder about a foot away from a wall. Reach your right arm overhead and place your palm on the wall, keeping your arm straight. Gently lean into the wall until you feel a stretch on top of your shoulder. You may also get a bonus stretch along your lat. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Wall Downward Dog
Although Downward Dog is a resting yoga pose, it can be tricky for people with shoulder pain. Fortunately, this stretch doesn’t put pressure on the shoulders! In fact, it helps to relieve tension in the shoulders, lats, and chest. Begin standing upright facing the wall, leaving a few feet between you and the wall. Hinge at the hips to lean forward and place your hands on the wall in line with your hips. Walk your feet back so that they are directly under your hips, forming an L-shape with your body. Press your palms into the wall and slowly lower your chest towards the floor, to the point where you feel a stretch through your shoulders, chest, and lats. Hold for 30 seconds.
Prepare to feel a pure relief in the rear part of both shoulders when you perform this stretch. It helps to open the teres minor, rhomboids, and rear deltoids. Stand up straight and face the wall. Cross your right arm over your left in front of you and place your hands on the wall. Crawl your hands away from each other, aiming to close the gap between your elbows and the wall. You should feel a stretch along the sides and backs of your shoulders. Breathe deeply and hold the position for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Thread The Needle
This stretch actually piggybacks on the previous Double V stretch, as it aims to stretch the rear shoulder and lat. Bring yourself into a tabletop position, placing your hands beneath your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Lift the right arm up to the ceiling, and then gently twist your torso to thread your right arm under your body, resting your right shoulder and the right temple on the mat. Direct your gaze at your right hand, keeping your left arm extended beyond your head. Hold this pose for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Low Back Hand Clasp
This is a great stretch to help open the chest and loosen up the tops of your shoulders. This can also be beneficial if you spend your days hunched over a computer. Stand up straight and clasp your hands behind your back near your tailbone. Keep your thumbs facing down and gently arch your upper back to open your chest. This will allow your shoulder blades to come closer together. Hold for 10 seconds and then reverse the clasp before repeating.