What Are Shoulder Stretches?

Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2021
what are shoulder stretches
Shoulder stretches can help relieve pain and stiffness in tight shoulders, improving flexibility and mobility. Here are 6 effective shoulder stretches to try

Shoulder stretches can help relieve pain and stiffness in tight shoulders, which are a common problem among most adults. Stretching is a great way to improve flexibility and mobility and prevent injury.

6 shoulder stretches to relieve tight muscles

1. Crossover shoulder stretch

  • Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  • Maintain a slight bend in your knees and tuck in your pelvis. 
  • Stretch your palms out and interlace your fingers.
  • Raise your left arm into the air and bend sideways from the waist, keeping your right hand on your hip. 
  • Then raise your opposite arm, place your opposite hand on your hip and repeat.

2. Overhead shoulder stretch

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. 
  • With your palms facing down, lace your fingers together. If you can't lace your fingers together, hold onto something for support. 
  • Raise your arm straight above your head, palms facing up. 
  • Hold the position for 20 seconds and repeat.

3. Shrugs

  • Stand in front of a mirror to assess your posture and make sure your shoulders move symmetrically. 
  • Keep your arms at your sides and your weight in your hands.
  • Begin by raising your shoulders toward your ears. Throughout the lifting motion, keep your elbows straight. 
  • Pause at the top of the movement and then rotate your shoulders backward.
  • As you move your shoulders back, imagine that you are trying to bring your shoulder blades (scapulae) together.
  • When your shoulders have gone all the way back, pause, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and then lower your shoulders to the starting position.

4. Wide child’s pose

  • Start on all fours at the center of a mat with your shoulders stacked over your hands and your hips over your knees, toes untucked.
  • Widen your knees and draw your toes together. 
  • Lower your torso to the mat and draw your glutes toward your heels.
  • Extend your arms down the length of the mat, resting your head between your arms.
  • Draw your shoulder blades down and back to create space between your shoulders and ears. 
  • Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing in and out through your nose the entire time.

5. Inward rotation

  • Stand next to a doorknob with one end of an exercise rubber band hooked on it. 
  • Hold the free end of the workout rubber band with your elbow at a 90-degree angle to the shoulder with the affected arm. 
  • Hold the band against your midline for 5 seconds. 
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

6. Hip thruster with ball

  • Place a Pilates ball between your knees. 
  • Slowly lower your butt to the point where it is nearly touching the ground. 
  • Return to the starting position by pressing your chest upward and expanding your shoulders. 
  • Complete 3 sets of 5 reps.

What causes frequent shoulder pain?

Causes of frequent shoulder pain may include

  • Overuse: Repetitive shoulder movements can cause stress on the shoulder muscles.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: If you spend most of the day slumped over a desk or computer, the muscles in your shoulder can easily get strained. As a result, shoulder muscles may become tense.
  • Stress: People tend to strain their shoulders unconsciously when they are stressed or anxious, which can contribute to shoulder stiffness.

Shoulders are made up of three bones: collarbone (clavicle), upper arm bone (humerus), and shoulder blade (scapula). These bones interact with tendons and muscles to provide you with a wide range of motion for your arms. 

If left untreated, shoulder pain can lead to discomfort and other issues such as headaches and reduced range of motion. 


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Medically Reviewed on 10/20/2021
Harvard Health Publishing. 4 stretch to keep your shoulders in shape. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/4-stretches-to-keep-your-shoulders-in-shape

WebMD. How to Stretch Your Shoulders. https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/how-to-stretch-shoulders#1

Princeton University. Shoulder Rehabilitation. https://uhs.princeton.edu/sites/uhs/files/documents/Shoulder-Rehab.pdf