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Blond middle-aged woman doing cross-body shoulder exercise in nature

15 Simple Stretches and Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Pain

Try These Easy Shoulder Stretches and Exercises to Help Relieve Pain  

If you have been helping a friend move boxes all day, painting your ceiling, or have just been noticing that stress has caused your shoulders to raise with tension, you may just need a cold pack, rest, and an anti-inflammatory, to feel better in the morning. However, if you’re experiencing chronic, acute or inexplicable shoulder pain, you should contact a medical professional. They may recommend home exercises, physical therapy, or surgery. In addition, shoulder surgery is typically followed by rehabilitation exercises you can do at home.  

Whether you are experiencing acute or chronic pain, there are many shoulder stretches and exercises you can do for pain relief. Read on to learn how you can ease muscle tension, improve your range of motion, and strengthen muscles and tendons that make up your rotator cuff.    

Prevention vs. Recovery 

If you’re recovering from a rotator cuff injury or surgery, or looking to prevent one, the following exercises can help. However, you should always seek the advice of a medical professional before exercising an injured or post-surgery shoulder.  

If you’re looking to prevent a shoulder injury, as with any new exercise regimen, start slow and easy, and gradually increase repetitions (reps) over time.  

Exercise Equipment for Shoulder Pain 

These basic shoulder stretches and exercises, require just a few pieces of very simple equipment, some of which you may already have at your disposal. In the list of exercises below, the equipment will be limited to the following:  

Begin with Stretches 

blond middled-aged woman stretching shoulder outdoors

Workout regimens generally begin with stretches in order to increase blood flow, which warms the muscles to prevent injury and improve range of motion.  

Neck Stretches for Shoulder Pain 

When it comes to tension, neck and shoulder pain go hand in hand. These neck stretches are good for anyone who works at a desk, or is consistently looking down to work or use a device — basically, everyone.  

Starting Position A: Stand with your feet comfortably apart, and your arms relaxed and at your sides, head level, looking forward.  

Do each exercise three times to start: 

1. Look down at your toes, only moving your head and neck. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start. 

2. Stretch neck to one side, reaching your ear toward your shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start, and repeat on the other side. 

3. Look as far to the left as is comfortable, again, only moving your head and neck. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start, and repeat on the other side.  

4. Stretch neck back, looking up at the ceiling. Hold for 10 seconds, return to start.  

Shoulder Stretches to Help Relieve Pain 

Use the same Starting Position A you used for the neck stretches, and do three reps of each stretch below: 

5. While taking an inward breath, raise shoulders toward you ears, then rotate them back, squeezing your shoulder blades together. Return to starting position while exhaling.

6. Place one arm across your chest. Use your opposite forearm, with elbow bent, to pull it in tighter. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat for three reps for each arm. 

Easy Exercises to Help Stabilize Your Shoulders

To help improve your shoulder stability and posture, try the following shoulder exercises using an Exercise Ball. Make sure your ball has a premium non-slip surface for maximum stability, like the CanDo Inflatable Exercise Ball. 

Starting Position B: Lie face down on the exercise ball with your stomach on the ball, your arms slightly stretched out in front of you, and your legs stretched straight back, your toes gripping the floor for stability. Tighten your abdominal muscles (core) and ensure that your body is straight, head to heels. Make fists with your thumbs pointing up, while keeping your shoulder blades neutral.  

Perform three reps of each of the following exercises:  

7. Move your arms, thumbs first, straight up toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders pressed down and your core engaged. Return to start. 
    8. Repeat step one, but with arms raised at a diagonal. Return to start. 
      9. Lift arms straight out to your side, with open palms facing the floor. This is similar to a “Superman” exercise done without the ball. Remember to keep your core engaged when lifting your arms. Return to start. 

        Shoulder Exercises to Relieve Tension 

        These three easy exercises use a foam roller to help relieve muscle tension in the shoulders. Starting Position C: Lay down facing up, with your foam roller under you, running the length of your back. Bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor.  

        In this position, perform the following exercises: 

        10. Extend your arms to your sides, palms up and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat twice.

        11. Make a large circle with your straight arms extended to the sides. Repeat 9 times, lightly brushing the floor each time. Reverse direction for ten more reps.

        12. Beginning with your arms straight behind you and palms up, slowly raise your straight arms, until they are perpendicular to the ceiling. Repeat four times.  

        Exercises for Shoulder Strengthening

        To help strengthen your shoulder muscles, try the following exercises using an Exercise Ball and weighted exercise balls like the TheraBand Soft Weights. 

        Using a soft weight adds a slight, comfortable weight to arm lifts to strengthen muscles that support the shoulder. While seated on your exercise ball, start with three reps of each of the following exercises:

        13. With a ball in each hand, at your sides, palms down, raise your arms slowly forward to shoulder height.

        14. With a ball in each hand, at your sides, palms in, raise your arms slowly to the sides to shoulder height.

        15. With a ball in each hand, at chin height, palms up, raise arms toward the ceiling, until fully extended.  

        Resistance Band and Pulley Exercises to Build Strength and Increase Range of Motion

        RangeMaster BlueRanger Shoulder Pulley

        Resistance bands and over-the-door pulleys are a mainstay for shoulder exercises for rotator cuff injuries and post-operative recovery. Your doctor or physical therapist can supply you with a list of appropriate exercises using bands and pulleys. As with weight lifting, form is very important to maximize effectiveness and prevent injury. 

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        Disclaimer: The information provided on the Orthopedic Outfitters website is designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. This information is not meant to substitute any professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Always consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routines. Depending on your overall health, certain conditions, and medications, your doctor may advise specific levels of activity.  

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