Unfortunately, many people experience pain the moment they roll out of bed, especially in their shoulders. The shoulders help you get through the day, as they are involved in many standard activities. You need your shoulders for reaching something on a high shelf, putting your shirt on, and showering, all of which are difficult if you have poor range of motion in the shoulder joints.
The best way to increase range of motion is by regularly engaging in mobility exercises. In the case of the shoulders, passive range of motion shoulder moves work to stretch the arms in various directions. The important aspect of passive range of motion exercises is that you don’t actively engage any muscles. This helps to improve mobility without increasing any pain that you may experience.
Even though the following exercises are passive movements, exercise physiologists recommend adding some active movements in as well. Actively engaging the muscles around the shoulders a few times per week can help increase shoulder strength and flexibility. Here are a few exercises to get you started on improving range of motion.
Side-Lying T-Spine Rotation
Lie on the floor on your right side, keeping your right leg straight and bending your left leg 90 degrees to keep the knee in line with your hip. Rest the inside of your left knee on a foam roller. Place your palms together, keeping your arms straight out in front of you in line with the shoulders. Keep your lower body stable as you open up your left arm toward the ceiling. Make sure your right arm doesn’t lift off the ground. Continue to open your left arm until you are in a complete “T” shape, directing your gaze to your left fingertips. Pause here and take a few deep breaths before returning to the starting position. Repeat about eight more times before switching sides.
Stand up straight and keep your feet hip-distance apart. Keep your arms by your sides and then raise your left arm up in front of you, leading with your thumb. Once your arm is straight over your head, rotate the arm so that you lead with the pinky as you bring it back down to your body. That is one full rotation. Complete eight to 10 rotations and then switch sides.
Wall Pectoral Stretch
Stand in front of a wall and place your right hand against it at shoulder level. Your palm should be flat against the wall. Continue to maintain contact between the wall and your hand as you slowly turn your body away from the wall. Twist until you feel a subtle pull in your chest and shoulder. Hold this stretch for about 10 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart. Clasp your arms behind your back, grabbing your left wrist with your right hand. Drop your shoulders and lift your chest as you tilt your head a little to the right. Pause here for a few deep breaths, feeling the stretch in your left trap muscle. Return your head to neutral position, grab your right wrist with your left hand, and repeat on the other side.
Foam Roller Supine Pectoral Stretch
Place a foam roller on the ground and lie on it so that it aligns with your spine. The base of your head should be at one end of the roller and your lower back on the other end. Bend your knees and keep your feet flat on the ground. Extend your arms out to the sides so that they are in line with your shoulders. Remain here for a few deep breaths and then sweep your arms down to your sides. Repeat this motion eight to 10 times to complete the exercise.
Child’s Pose Lat Stretch
Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, keeping your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Untuck your toes and sit back to come into child’s pose, keeping your arms extended out in front of you. Lower your forehead to the ground and pause here for a moment. Walk your arms over to the right until you feel a stretch in your left lat, just under your armpit. Remain here for a few deep breaths and then return to the center. Switch sides to repeat the stretch.