Best Exercises and Stretches for Shoulder Pain Relief

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: November 22, 2023
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Shoulder pain can significantly impact your daily activities and quality of life. If you're seeking to relieve pain and want to improve the strength and flexibility of your shoulders, incorporating targeted exercises and stretches into your routine can be incredibly beneficial.

As a fitness expert focusing on injury prevention and rehabilitation, I have witnessed specific exercises and stretches' positive impact on shoulder pain.

These techniques help alleviate discomfort and enhance shoulder mobility, strengthen the supporting muscles, and promote overall shoulder health.

In this article, I will share my expertise and practical insights on the most effective shoulder exercises and stretches to relieve pain and tightness.

Whether recovering from an injury, dealing with chronic discomfort, or simply aiming to maintain a healthy shoulder function, this guide will provide valuable information and step-by-step instructions to help you achieve your goals.

Quick Summary

  • Cross body shoulder stretch, chest expansion, and doorway shoulder stretch effectively improve shoulder strength and flexibility.
  • Chest expansion and neck release are beneficial stretching routines to enhance shoulder mobility and reduce muscle tension.
  • Incorporating these exercises and stretches into your routine can help alleviate shoulder pain, increase your range of motion, and promote better shoulder health.

Best Workouts and Stretches for Shoulder Pain

A person stretching out his shoulders with shoulder workouts

Incorporating specific lengthening and strengthening exercises and stretches into your routine can be highly beneficial when managing shoulder pain.

Here are four shoulder stretches and exercises that can help you relieve shoulder pain with minimal equipment.

Crossover Arm Stretch

The crossover arm stretch helps to increase flexibility, relieve tension, and improve range of motion.

To perform the crossover arm stretch:

  1. Stand tall or sit upright with proper posture.
  2. Extend your right arm straight across your chest.
  3. Bend your left arm and use your left hand to gently pull your right upper arm closer to your body.
  4. Feel the stretch in the back of your right shoulder and upper back. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Release the stretch and repeat on the other side by extending your left arm across your chest and using your right hand to assist in the stretch. Perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Chest Expansion

A person doing chest expansions

Chest expansion exercises are beneficial for improving posture, stretching the chest muscles, and increasing overall flexibility.

To perform the chest expansion exercise:

  1. Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and maintain good posture.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your back, with your palms facing inward and your arms straight.
  3. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your interlaced hands away from your body.
  4. As you lift your hands, inhale deeply and expand your chest, feeling a stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Exhale and slowly release your hands back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise for 2-3 sets.

Neck Release

The neck release exercise is a helpful stretch for relieving neck and upper back muscle tension.

Here's how to perform a neck release:

  1. Sit or stand comfortably with good posture, ensuring your spine is aligned.
  2. Relax your shoulders and let your arms rest by your sides.
  3. Tilt your head to the right, bringing your right ear towards your right shoulder, targeting the left side of your neck, and providing a shoulder stretch for the left shoulder.
  4. Place your right hand on the left side of your head and gently apply a slight downward pressure, deepening the stretch specifically on the left side. Hold it for 15-30 seconds.
  5. Release the stretch and return your head to the neutral position.
  6. Repeat the stretch on the opposite side, tilting your head to the left and placing your left hand on the right side of your head. This will provide a stretch for the right shoulder. Perform 2-3 sets on each side.

Read More: Best Neck Exercises

Doorway Shoulder Stretch

A person doing Doorway Shoulder Stretch

The doorway shoulder stretch is an effective exercise for stretching the shoulders and chest muscles.

To perform a doorway shoulder stretch:

  1. Stand facing a doorway with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Raise your right arm to shoulder height and bend it at a 90-degree angle, placing your forearm against the doorframe.
  3. Step forward with your right foot, keeping it aligned with your hip.
  4. Gently lean forward your body, allowing your chest to move through the doorway while keeping your forearm against the doorframe.
  5. You should feel a stretch in the front of your right shoulder and chest. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  6. Release the stretch and repeat on the other side by raising your left arm and placing your left forearm against the doorframe. Perform 2-3 sets on each side.

"Incorporating a combination of targeted exercises and stretches into your fitness routine can be a game-changer for shoulder pain. These exercises not only help alleviate discomfort but also promote better posture, strength, and overall shoulder health."

- Jessica Evans, Fitness Expert

Why Is It Important to Stretch Your Shoulders?

A person stretching out her shoulders

Stretching your shoulders is important for several reasons:

Increase Shoulder Mobility & Flexibility

Regular shoulder stretching can help improve the flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder joints.

This can be particularly beneficial if you have tight or stiff shoulders. Increased flexibility allows for greater freedom of movement, making everyday tasks and physical activities easier and more comfortable.

Learn More: Shoulder Mobility Exercises for Increased Motion Range

Prevent Future Shoulder Injuries

Keeping the shoulder muscles and surrounding tissues flexible and supple can reduce the risk of injuries.

When the muscles are properly stretched, they are better able to handle sudden movements, strains, and stressors.

Additionally, balanced shoulder flexibility can help prevent imbalances in muscle strength, reducing the risk of overcompensation and potential injuries.

Stabilize the Joint

A person stretching her shoulders

The shoulder joint is inherently unstable compared to other major joints.

Regularly stretching the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint can help maintain and improve their flexibility and strength.

This, in turn, contributes to better joint stability.

When the muscles are balanced and adequately conditioned, they can better support the shoulder joint during movements, reducing the risk of potential injuries.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

A person suffering from shoulder pain

Rotator Cuff Injuries

Rotator cuff injuries can occur due to overuse, repetitive motions, or trauma, leading to strains, tears, or tendinitis in the muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder, including the rotator cuff and the shoulder blade.

These injuries can cause significant shoulder pain and limit your range of motion [1].

Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

The shoulder capsule becomes thick and tight, leading to restricted movement and pain. It can develop following an injury, surgery, or certain medical conditions.

Shoulder Bursitis

Inflammation of the bursa, the small fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning around the joint and shoulder blade, can cause shoulder pain.

Bursitis is often a result of repetitive motions, trauma, or underlying inflammatory conditions [2].

How to Prevent Shoulder Pain and Tightness

A person suffering from shoulder pains

To prevent shoulder pain and tightness, incorporate regular stretching shoulders into your routine.

Additionally, practicing regular exercises, such as yoga, can aid in reducing stress and tension and improve overall flexibility.

Practice proper posture throughout the day, especially when sitting or working at a desk and avoid slouching, and align your head and neck with your spine.

Good posture helps distribute the load evenly across the shoulders and reduces strain on the muscles.

Pay attention when you are lifting heavy objects or performing activities that involve lifting. Use proper lifting techniques.

Try to avoid repetitive overhead activities or movements that strain the shoulder joint.

If you must perform such activities, take frequent breaks and incorporate stretching exercises to prevent muscle fatigue and tightness.


Can Stretching Relieve Shoulder Pain?

Yes, stretching exercises can effectively relieve shoulder pain by promoting muscle relaxation, improving the range of motion, enhancing circulation, and preventing injuries.

Can Shoulder Tendons Heal Naturally?

Yes, shoulder tendons have the potential to heal naturally, depending on the extent and type of injury. Tendon healing is a complex process that involves inflammation, cell proliferation, and tissue remodeling.


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