Many of us have jobs that entail sitting at a desk all day long. For those of us stuck sitting, we’re typically looking at a computer and don’t have the best posture. I find myself almost shrugging when I hunch over the keyboard at my desk, and it causes a lot of tightness and pain in my neck and shoulders, leading to headaches and discomfort throughout more of the body. Though common, struggling with tight muscles still causes us to perform poorly in our day to day activities.
Why Having Tight Shoulders Is a Problem You Shouldn’t Ignore
Shoulders are a complex body structure, as illustrated below:
The human shoulder is the most mobile joint in the body, but that also puts it at a higher risk of injury and pain.1 More so, the shoulder is not just a joint; it’s part of the neck, ribs and scapula (shoulder blade).
Even if you don’t have a desk job, think about the way you carry certain items. Do you sling things over your shoulder despite how heavy and awkward it may feel? If you wear a backpack, you may only carry it on one shoulder causing you to walk in a lopsided manor. In order to avoid misusing your shoulder muscles and stay pain free, all four shoulder joints have to work appropriately. Thankfully there are simple stretches to assist you in strengthening stiff muscles and extending healthy motion.
Remember to Warm Up Before Your Try the Shoulder Stretches
It’s a good idea to warm up before stretching as strained muscles in your shoulders can cause injury.2 Warming up is as easy as getting your blood flowing. You want to make sure your muscles are physically warm before exercising them. This can be done by holding your arms out straight in front of you with your elbows locked and pulling your arms back to form a T with your body. You can even warm your muscles by taking a warm shower, jogging in place, or doing some jumping jacks to increase your heart rate.
10 Shoulder Stretches That Can Effectively Relieve Shoulder Strain
Sit up straight
It may not seem like much of a stretch, but simply sitting up straight and improving your posture helps move the spinal column and soft tissues to increase circulation and blood flow. While standing, slouch slightly forward before over-correcting to an upright position.
Retract your chin
You know how your face looks when you open your camera app only to find it’s in selfie mode? Yeah, that’s the look we’re going for here. Move your chin forward, then slowly bring is back by tucking it toward your throat. Do this hourly, and aim for ten times a day.
Roll your shoulders
This stretch is almost like a dance move. While sitting or standing up straight, roll shoulders up, back and down in a circular motion. Change direction after 10 rounds and do the same thing going forward. Remember to move in a circle, don’t just shrug up and down.
Stretch your neck
This is one of my favorites, as I keep a lot of tension in the area this stretch targets. Touch your right ear to your right shoulder. Now place your right hand over your left temple and apply just a little pressure by gently pulling your head to the right. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Thread the needle
This one isn’t as easy to do at work, but it’s effective. Start on all fours and lift your left hand off the ground. “Thread” the left arm through the space between your right arm and right leg, letting the back of the left hand and arm slide. Allow your upper body to rotate to the right but keep your hips level.
Stretch your chest
These muscles tend to always be tight, but they help pull your shoulders forward. Stand near a doorway and lift your arm, holding it straight or parallel to the floor. Grab hold of the door frame and lean forward. This will put your arm behind your shoulder and stretch your chest, upper arm and anterior deltoid muscles. Hold for 30 seconds and switch sides.
Stretch your rhomboids
These muscles are located in the upper portion of your back and attach your shoulder blades to your spine. Find a pole or column to grab. Relax your shoulders as you pull your body back, extending your arms to feel the stretch below your shoulder blades. Hold for 20 seconds before switching sides.
Scratch your back
This stretch is a bit more advanced and requires you to be pretty flexible. Don’t get frustrated if you can’t do it the first couple times. Grab a small towel or t-shirt, and bend one arm over your head feeding the towel or shirt down your back. Bend your other arm around and up your back to grab the loose end of the towel. Pull up and down as if scratching your back. Repeat three to five times before switching arms.
Circle your arms
Standing straight, make big circles with your arm. Get as close to a wall as you can (it’s okay to brush against the wall). Repeat ten times on each side.
Go for the goal
The Goal Post stretch is a great option even if you’re at work. With your back to a wall, allow your shoulder blades to rest in a neutral position and bring both elbows out to 90 degrees. Without changing the position of your elbows, turn your right arm upward and let the back of your hand touch the wall. Simultaneously bring your left arm downward so your left palm touches the wall. Do this for about thirty seconds.