stretches-and-exercises-to-ease-shoulder-pain-at-home (2023)

We use our shoulders to do just about everything, from pushing and pulling to lifting and carrying. That’s why it’s common to feel tension—or even pain—in our shoulder joints, especially after doing the same motions over and over again.

While shoulder pain caused by an injury or trauma should be treated by a doctor specializing in orthopedics, there are stretches and exercises you can do at home to get rid of shoulder pain. Exercises that target the shoulders and surrounding muscles can strengthen and stabilize the joint, helping to relieve tightness, improve range of motion, and prevent injury.

(Video) Shoulder Pain Relief Stretches – 5 Minute Real Time Routine

Common causes of shoulder pain.

Proper shoulder movement requires supporting muscle groups to work together in a coordinated fashion. While shoulder pain can be caused by direct trauma to the shoulder, if the muscles and soft tissues that support the shoulder weaken, become stiff, or are injured, our shoulders become susceptible to injury.

There are a variety of causes of shoulder pain, but most conditions can be broken down into the following categories:

  • Degenerative conditions that occur gradually over time as a result of wear and tear, such as arthritis.
  • Chronic or overuse conditions that result from repetitive overhead motion such as throwing a baseball or painting the walls of a house.
  • Acute injury and trauma after a direct blow to the shoulder or sudden forceful stretch during a fall, car accident, or other unexpected event.

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Why it’s important to stretch your shoulders.

Stretching gets your blood flow circulating so you can safely and gradually improve motion and perform shoulder exercises. Shoulder exercises strengthen your shoulder muscles and encourage proper shoulder function, which helps you to:

(Video) How To ELIMINATE Shoulder Pain - Shoulder Impingement Exercises

  • Improve flexibility
  • Increase range of motion
  • Stabilize the joint
  • Prevent future injury
  • Reduce muscle soreness

Exercises and stretches that can relieve shoulder pain.

These five easy shoulder stretches, along with a few exercises, can help you relieve shoulder pain at home with minimal equipment. Consider performing these stretches and exercises three to four days a week to maintain and improve shoulder motion, and gradually progress to the strengthening exercises to improve function. If you feel pain, stop the exercise and call a doctor specializing in orthopedics.

Stretches.

1. Pendulum

  • Lean forward, placing your right hand on a counter or table for support. Allow your left arm to hang relaxed at your side.
  • Gently swing your left arm forward and backward, side-to-side, and in a circular motion. Repeat the motion 10 times.
  • Switch arms and repeat the sequence.

Repetitions: 2 sets of 10 on each side
Tip: Keep your back straight and your knees slightly bent.

2. Crossover arm stretch

  • With relaxed shoulders, gently pull your left arm across your chest.
  • Hold your upper left arm using your right hand, pulling it until you feel the stretch at the back of your shoulder.
  • Hold it for 30 seconds and then release it for 30 seconds.
  • Perform the stretch three more times.
  • Repeat with the opposite arm.

Repetitions: 4 on each side
Tip: Avoid putting pressure on your elbow.

3. Table and wall slides

  • Place both hands on a long table in front of you while sitting down and upright.
  • Slide your hands together forwards along the table to gently stretch overhead as you lean forward.
  • Hold the movement for 5 seconds once you reach your maximum stretch, then slowly return to the upright position.
  • As you progress, move to a wall and try the overhead stretch while standing, using the wall to slide your hands along.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 10 slides
Tip: To make sliding easier, hold a towel or walk your fingers along the surface.

4. Passive internal and external rotation stretch

Internal rotation

  • Hold a yardstick, golf club, or other light stick behind your back with your left hand.
  • Lightly grasp the end of the stick with your right hand.
  • Gently pull the stick horizontally with your right hand until you feel a stretch in the front of your shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Release for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

External rotation

  • Grasp a broomstick, yardstick, golf club, or other light stick with your left hand in front of your body and the other end of the stick with your right hand.
  • Push the stick horizontally with your right hand until you feel the stretch in the back of your shoulder.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Repetitions: 4 of each on both sides
Tip: Keep hips facing forward and avoid leaning or twisting while pushing or pulling the stick.

(Video) 20-Minute Shoulder Pain Relief Routine with Real-Time Stretches & Exercises

5. Sleeper stretch

  • Lie down on your left side on a flat, firm surface.
  • With your shoulder under you, bend your left arm at a 90-degree angle.
  • Use your right arm to push your left arm down until you feel a stretch in the back of your left shoulder.
  • Hold the movement for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds.
  • Switch sides and repeat.

Repetitions: 4 on each side
Tip: Avoiding pressing down on or bending your wrist.

Strengthening exercises.

For each exercise, use light dumbbells that allow you to perform the minimum number of eight repetitions in a set. As the exercise gets easier, progress to three sets of 12 repetitions. Add weight in one-pound increments up to five pounds. Each time you increase weight, begin with three sets of eight repetitions before progressing to 12 repetitions.

1. Scapular retraction/protraction

  • Lie down on a table or bed on your stomach. Let your arm hang over the side with a light dumbbell in your hand..
  • Keep your elbow straight and squeeze your shoulder blade toward the opposite side of your body.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Switch sides.

Repetitions: 2 sets of 10 on each side
Tip: Be careful not to shrug your shoulder toward your ear.

2. Forward elevation strength

  • Hold light dumbbells in both hands with arms outstretched in front of you.
  • Slowly raise both hands to a slightly overhead position at the same time.
  • Slowly return to a resting position and repeat.
  • As you get stronger, increase your weight while lowering the number of repetitions.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions on each side
Tip: As you get stronger, widen your hand position so they are raised approximately 6 to 12 inches outside of your shoulders.

3. Trapezius strengthening

  • Place your right knee on a bench, leaning forward to support your body with your right hand on the bench.
  • With your left hand palm facing your body, slowly raise your left arm and rotate your hand to the thumbs-up position.
  • Stop when your left hand reaches shoulder height and your arm is parallel to the floor.
  • Count to five as you lower your left arm to the original position.
  • Repeat on the opposite side.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 20 on each side
Tip: You can add light weight (2 to 3 lbs) to increase the difficulty as the exercise gets easier.

4. Internal and external rotation strength

Internal rotation

  • Make a loop with a 3-foot-long exercise band, tying the ends together. Attach the loop to a doorknob or other stable object.
  • Hold the band with the hand closest to the loop with your elbow at your side and bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Keeping your elbow tight by your side, bring your arm across your body.
  • Slowly return to the start position and repeat.
  • Switch sides.

External rotation

(Video) Best Shoulder Pain Relief Exercises | Rotator Cuff Tendinopathy

  • Using the same 3-foot-long loop attached to a doorknob or stable object, grasp the loop with the hand furthest from the loop.
  • Keep your elbow tight by your side and bend it at a 90-degree angle.
  • Slowly rotate your arm outward.
  • Return to the start position and repeat.
  • Switch sides.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 on each side
Tip: Keep your elbow pressed into your side. You can also do this exercise laying on your side, using light dumbbells to perform a similar motion as when using the bands.

5. Bent-over horizontal abduction

  • Lie down on a table or bed on your stomach. Let your arm hang over the side with a light dumbbell in your hand..
  • Keep your arm straight and slowly raise the dumbbell to eye level.
  • Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.
  • Switch sides.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 on each side
Tip: Use slow and controlled movement when lowering the weight.

6. Elbow flexion

  • Stand tall with light dumbbells in each hand.
  • Keeping your elbows close to your sides, bring the weight toward your shoulders.
  • Hold for two seconds and slowly lower to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
  • Increase weight by 1-pound increments as the exercise gets easier.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 on each side
Tip: Use slow and controlled movement when lowering the weight.

7. Elbow extension

  • Stand tall with a light dumbbell in your left hand.
  • Raise your left arm, bending your elbow behind your head. Support your left arm by grasping your upper arm with your right hand.
  • Slowly straighten your elbow, bringing the weight overhead.
  • Hold for two seconds and slowly lower to the starting position.
  • Repeat.
  • Increase weight by 1-pound increments as the exercise gets easier.

Repetitions: 3 sets of 8 to 12 on each side
Tip: Avoid arching your back by tightening your abdominal muscles.

When to see a doctor for shoulder pain.

If you experienced a sudden injury or trauma to your shoulder, or your shoulder pain is worsening and affecting your sleep or quality of life, don’t wait to visit an experienced orthopedic expert.

A highly trained doctor specializing in orthopedics can accurately diagnose your shoulder pain and determine the best course of treatment. From non-invasive treatment options, such as icing, biologic injections, and physical therapy, to minimally invasive or complex surgery, you can count on the fellowship-trained orthopedic experts at MedStar Orthopaedic Institute at MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital to get you back to the activities you enjoy without shoulder pain.

FAQs

What stretches can I do to relieve shoulder pain? ›

Top 10 stretches for shoulder tightness
  1. Neck stretches.
  2. Shoulder rolls.
  3. Pendulum stretch.
  4. Cross-body arm swings.
  5. Cross-body stretch.
  6. Child's Pose.
  7. Ragdoll Pose.
  8. Eagle arm stretch.

How do you get rid of shoulder pain fast at home? ›

Home Care
  1. Put ice on the shoulder area for 15 minutes, then leave it off for 15 minutes. Do this 3 to 4 times a day for 2 to 3 days. ...
  2. Rest your shoulder for the next few days.
  3. Slowly return to your regular activities. ...
  4. Taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) may help reduce inflammation and pain.

What is one exercise you can do for shoulder pain? ›

Relax your shoulders and gently pull one arm across your chest as far as possible, holding at your upper arm. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other arm.

How can I fix my shoulder pain from sleeping? ›

Using a medium-firm mattress and the right pillow for a person's sleeping position may help reduce shoulder pain from sleeping. People can also relieve shoulder pain at home by resting the shoulder and taking anti-inflammatory medications.

How do you relax your shoulders while sleeping? ›

Hug a pillow, as this will put your top shoulder in an open position. Tuck the pillow up high under the arm. Use a pillow between your legs when you are on your side, or behind your thighs if lying on your back. This helps take pressure off your whole spine.

What is the main cause of shoulder pain? ›

The most common cause of shoulder pain is when rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or trapped in your shoulder. This is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or irritation of these tendons and inflammation of the bursa, small slippery fluid filled sacs that the tendons glide over.

How do I relax my neck and shoulder muscles? ›

The neck release is a gentle way to loosen tension in both your shoulders and neck.
  1. Stand tall with both arms at your sides.
  2. Lower your head and bring your chin toward your chest.
  3. Gently tilt your head towards the right side and pause for 30 seconds. ...
  4. Bring your head back to the center and lift to the starting position.
17 Feb 2021

Will shoulder pain go away? ›

It can take four to six weeks to recover fully from mild shoulder pain. There are some things you should and shouldn't do to help ease shoulder pain. See information below for what these include.

Does walking help shoulder pain? ›

Don't rule out walking

But regular walking may even help you burn off shoulder pain. This low-impact workout is most effective when you stand up tall with your shoulders back. A daily walk can improve your mood and can keep your weight in check. It may also help decrease swelling and stiffness in your joints.

What exercises can I do for neck and shoulder pain? ›

Tilting and holding your head on each side is one repetition. With your head facing forward, slowly tilt your head towards one shoulder as far as is comfortable – you should feel a stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Hold for 2 seconds then return to where you started. Repeat on the other side.

What causes shoulder pain that radiates down the arm? ›

Torn Rotator Cuff

This happens from injury or overuse. It can be a partial or complete tear in the tendons of the rotator cuff. Pain with a torn rotator cuff occurs in the front of the shoulder radiating down the side of the arm.

Why is shoulder pain worse lying down? ›

Tearing and injury to the rotator cuff become more likely as tendons in the shoulder naturally wear down over time. Due to gravity, laying down can cause the rotator cuff to stretch and pull, leading to significantly worsened pain at night.

Should shoulders be on pillow when sleeping? ›

Your shoulders should not be on the pillow. Not So Great: On your side, with your legs curled up towards the chest. This does not provide spine alignment for the shoulders and neck. It also does not evenly distribute weight throughout your body and can lead you to waking up in the morning with back pain.

What position should I sleep in with shoulder pain? ›

Sleeping On Your Back with Shoulder Support

If you face rotator cuff pain—or shoulder pain, in general—try sleeping on your back with a small pillow nested between your shoulder blades. Often, morning shoulder pain is caused by your body's flatness during nighttime hours.

How do you give yourself a shoulder massage? ›

Massaging the shoulders

Place your left hand on top of your right shoulder. Squeeze the muscle and shrug your shoulder, release the pressure as you relax your shoulder. Apply firm pressure and move your fingers closer to your neck in a circular motion. Repeat on the left side with your right hand.

How do you massage a sore shoulder? ›

Circular Technique: Apply pressure to the shoulder with the fingertips, working in a circular motion up to the neck muscle. Once you have finished the neck and shoulder massage on one side, move to the other, then glide both hands down the back in long, flowing strokes to finish up the massage.

What is the best painkiller for shoulder pain? ›

To relieve minor shoulder pain you might try: Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help.

How do I know what type of shoulder pain I have? ›

How Is Shoulder Pain Diagnosed?
  1. X-rays. These can help your doctor find bone spurs, arthritis, and other bone-related causes of your shoulder pain. ...
  2. MRI scan. This uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to make detailed images of your shoulder.
  3. CT scan. ...
  4. Electromyography (EMG). ...
  5. Arthroscopy.
30 Jul 2021

What are 2 warning signs of a rotator cuff tear? ›

Signs of a rotator cuff tear include: Difficulty and pain caused by raising your arm. Popping or clicking sounds or sensations when moving your arm. Shoulder pain that worsens at night or when resting your arm.

What is the best treatment for neck and shoulder pain at home? ›

Heating pads, ice or cold packs, and TENS Therapy (aka electrotherapy) are natural ways to get relief from neck and shoulder pain.

What emotions are stored in the neck and shoulders? ›

Neck Tension = Fear and Repressed Self-Expression

Fear and anxiety are also frequently stored in this area, particularly as a physical response to danger (as the neck is a vulnerable area) or strange environments. Neck muscle tension is also related to trust issues.

How do you loosen up tight back and shoulders? ›

How to Fix a Tight Upper Back in 30 SECONDS - YouTube

What is the most painful shoulder injury? ›

Frozen shoulder is one of the most painful shoulder conditions due to its persistence, long recovery and ever-growing pain. In early stages of development, pain is at its height, but slowly minimizes through each of its three phases.

What does arthritis in shoulder feel like? ›

Shoulder arthritis is inflammation in your shoulder joint. Over time, arthritis leads to cartilage loss. Symptoms include pain, stiffness, decreased range of motion and popping, clicking and grinding noises in your shoulder joint.

What are 3 common shoulder injuries? ›

Common Injuries of the Shoulder
  • Shoulder instability. Shoulder instability happens most often in young people and athletes. ...
  • Rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles of the upper arm. ...
  • Frozen shoulder. This extreme stiffness in the shoulder can happen at any age. ...
  • Overuse/strains. ...
  • Arthritis.

What exercises to avoid if you have shoulder pain? ›

Those with shoulder injuries should initially steer clear of exercises that involve pressing movements or overhead movements. Forget activities like throwing a ball, or specific weight training at the gym like overhead presses and pull downs.

How can I strengthen my shoulders at home? ›

9 Shoulder Exercises to Do at Home That Dissolve Any Sign of Tension
  1. Arm circles. FitnessBlender. ...
  2. Pike push-ups. LivestrongWoman. ...
  3. Handstand wall walk and holds. Natasha Noel. ...
  4. Pike hold.  ...
  5. Lateral raises. MyTraining App. ...
  6. Lateral lunge to overhead press. 3v. ...
  7. Planks. Well+Good. ...
  8. Push-up plank with shoulder tap. Fitgurlmel.
14 Apr 2020

How do I get instant relief from neck and shoulder pain? ›

For minor, common causes of neck pain, try these simple remedies:
  1. Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat after that. ...
  2. Take over-the-counter pain relievers. ...
  3. Keep moving. ...
  4. Gentle massage. ...
  5. Make sure you have the proper mattress or pillow. ...
  6. Use a soft neck collar.
30 Nov 2021

How can I strengthen my shoulder joints? ›

Exercise Two
  1. Lie on your side on a bed or the floor.
  2. Place your upper arm at your side with your elbow bent to 90 degrees, and your forearm resting against your chest, palm down.
  3. Rotate your shoulder out and raise your forearm until it is level with your shoulder.
  4. Lower the hand slowly.
  5. Repeat 10 times.
11 Aug 2022

How should I sleep with shoulder arthritis? ›

Sleep with your head, neck, and spine in a straight line. Don't keep your head tilted far to one side, or too far forward or backward on the pillow. Sleep on your back or side, not your tummy. You have to twist your neck to breathe if you lie on your stomach.

Does shoulder arthritis go away? ›

Although there is no cure for arthritis of the shoulder, there are many treatment options available. Using these, most people with arthritis are able to manage pain and stay active.

Should you stretch an arthritic shoulder? ›

Share on Pinterest Stretches are a beneficial exercise for shoulder arthritis. The most beneficial types of exercise for arthritis include: range-of-motion and flexibility exercises, such as stretches, which reduce stiffness. strength exercises that build muscle mass around the joints, which reduces the strain on them.

How do you loosen tight shoulder muscles? ›

To do this stretch:
  1. Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Pull your arm across your chest and hold at your upper arm. Don't hold or pull your elbow.
  3. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Release and switch sides.
  5. Repeat two more times.
17 Aug 2021

What is the main cause of shoulder pain? ›

The most common cause of shoulder pain is when rotator cuff tendons become inflamed or trapped in your shoulder. This is called rotator cuff tendinitis, or irritation of these tendons and inflammation of the bursa, small slippery fluid filled sacs that the tendons glide over.

Can barely lift shoulder? ›

One of the most common causes of pain in your shoulder or arm that makes it difficult to move or lift are rotator cuff injuries. The group of tendons and muscles in your rotator cuff help provide stability and allow your shoulder to rotate.

What is the fastest way to heal tendonitis in the shoulder? ›

Shoulder Tendinitis Treatment
  1. Activity modification.
  2. Anti-inflammatory medication.
  3. Corticosteroid injection into the shoulder joint.
  4. Icing or applying heat to the shoulder joint.
  5. Range of motion exercises/physical therapy.

How do you release tight neck and shoulder muscles? ›

More neck tension treatments
  1. getting a massage.
  2. applying heat or ice.
  3. soaking in salt water or a warm bath.
  4. taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) and naproxen (Aleve)
  5. practicing meditation.
  6. doing yoga.
17 Feb 2021

How do I get rid of neck and shoulder pain? ›

For minor, common causes of neck pain, try these simple remedies:
  1. Apply heat or ice to the painful area. Use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, then use heat after that. ...
  2. Take over-the-counter pain relievers. ...
  3. Keep moving. ...
  4. Gentle massage. ...
  5. Make sure you have the proper mattress or pillow. ...
  6. Use a soft neck collar.
30 Nov 2021

How do you give yourself a shoulder massage? ›

Massaging the shoulders

Place your left hand on top of your right shoulder. Squeeze the muscle and shrug your shoulder, release the pressure as you relax your shoulder. Apply firm pressure and move your fingers closer to your neck in a circular motion. Repeat on the left side with your right hand.

What is the best painkiller for shoulder pain? ›

To relieve minor shoulder pain you might try: Pain relievers. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) may help.

How do I know what type of shoulder pain I have? ›

How Is Shoulder Pain Diagnosed?
  1. X-rays. These can help your doctor find bone spurs, arthritis, and other bone-related causes of your shoulder pain. ...
  2. MRI scan. This uses radio waves and a powerful magnet to make detailed images of your shoulder.
  3. CT scan. ...
  4. Electromyography (EMG). ...
  5. Arthroscopy.
30 Jul 2021

Will shoulder pain go away? ›

It can take four to six weeks to recover fully from mild shoulder pain. There are some things you should and shouldn't do to help ease shoulder pain. See information below for what these include.

What are 2 warning signs of a rotator cuff tear? ›

Signs of a rotator cuff tear include: Difficulty and pain caused by raising your arm. Popping or clicking sounds or sensations when moving your arm. Shoulder pain that worsens at night or when resting your arm.

What are 3 common shoulder injuries? ›

Common Injuries of the Shoulder
  • Shoulder instability. Shoulder instability happens most often in young people and athletes. ...
  • Rotator cuff tear. The rotator cuff is a group of 4 muscles of the upper arm. ...
  • Frozen shoulder. This extreme stiffness in the shoulder can happen at any age. ...
  • Overuse/strains. ...
  • Arthritis.

How do I know if I have damaged my rotator cuff? ›

Be described as a dull ache deep in the shoulder. Disturb sleep. Make it difficult to comb your hair or reach behind your back. Be accompanied by arm weakness.

What are the 4 symptoms of tendonitis? ›

The chief symptom is pain at the site of the injured tendon, especially during use. The pain may be chronic or it may come on suddenly and feel sharp. Other symptoms include swelling, warmth, tenderness, and redness.

What exercises to avoid if you have shoulder pain? ›

Those with shoulder injuries should initially steer clear of exercises that involve pressing movements or overhead movements. Forget activities like throwing a ball, or specific weight training at the gym like overhead presses and pull downs.

What causes shoulder pain that radiates down the arm? ›

Torn Rotator Cuff

This happens from injury or overuse. It can be a partial or complete tear in the tendons of the rotator cuff. Pain with a torn rotator cuff occurs in the front of the shoulder radiating down the side of the arm.

Videos

1. 7 Simple Exercises for Shoulder Pain That Really Work (Impingement, Tendonitis, Arthritis)
(Bob & Brad)
2. Shoulder Pain Relief Stretches And Exercises - WORKS FAST!
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3. Exercises for shoulder pain, Impingement, Bursitis, Rotator Cuff Disease by Dr Furlan MD PhD
(Dr. Andrea Furlan)
4. 3 Simple Daily Stretches That Can Heal Your Shoulder Pain + Giveaway!
(Bob & Brad)
5. 20 Min Shoulder Stretching & Strengthening for Pain Relief - Shoulder Pain Exercises Stretches
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6. Immediate Relief! Home Exercises For Shoulder Pain
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