Shoulder Mobility

One of the most common areas clients often experience muscle tightness is in their shoulders. This may result from a whole list of reasons, including poor posture, occupations requiring sitting in front of a computer, sleeping position, muscle weakness, previous injury, arthritis, and even just tensing up from daily stress. Shoulder tightness can manifest as pain or stiffness in the shoulders, neck, back, and upper body. Stretching and foam rolling can help prevent and alleviate shoulder tightness by improving flexibility and range of motion, which then decreases the risk of injury.

Foam rolling is a great way to relieve tight muscles and fascia. To relieve shoulder tightness, sit on the floor with the foam roller perpendicular to the spine just below the bottoms of the shoulder blades. Raise your arms overhead parallel to each other and slowly use your legs to roll the roller toward the tops of your shoulders. You can concentrate on any tight areas for up to 30 seconds, but if any areas are painful, stop immediately. For best results, try focusing on a 3-inch area at a time as you roll your upper back.

If you have any questions about relieving shoulder tightness, please reach out to your personal trainer, physical therapist, or physician. Please seek medical attention with any tightness due to acute or previous injury or any chronic issues that have not been medically evaluated. Here are some stretches that can be used to alleviate shoulder tightness for the general population:

  1. Shoulder raises. Stand with good posture and arms to your sides. Raise both shoulders up toward your ears, hold for a couple of seconds, and slowly release. Repeat up to 5-10 times.
  2. Shoulder rolls. Stand with good posture and arms to the sides. This time instead of raising both shoulders straight up, slowly roll them in either a clockwise (down + back and then upward and forward in a circle) or counter-clockwise (up + forward and then down and backward in a circle) motion. Repeat up to 5-10 times each direction.
  3. Ear to shoulder. Sit or stand with good posture. Slowly tilt the head so that the right ear is stretching toward the right shoulder. Hold up to 30 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side. Avoid straining or lifting either shoulder.
  4. Chin retraction. Sit or stand with good posture. Extend the chin forward without straining and retract it back to neutral position. Repeat up to 10 times.
  5. Cross body stretch. Stand in neutral position. Bring one arm across the chest and hook the other arm underneath the elbow area, stretching it toward your chest. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Repeat with opposite arm.
  1. Overhead tricep stretch. Standing or seated, bring one arm overhead so that the bicep is by that side’s ear. Use the opposite hand to gently hold the opposite elbow so that it is pointing toward the ceiling. Hold for up to 30 seconds and switch sides.
  2. Standing arm lifts. Stand with both arms at the side and palms facing each other. Raise both arms as high as they will go without raising the shoulders. Lower as far as the arms will go back. Repeat for 30 seconds.
  3. Forward bend with shoulder stretch. Stand in a neutral position, feet shoulder-width apart, with knees slightly bent. Clasp hands behind back and slowly bend forward, keeping a slight bend in the knee as you bring your arms overhead. Tuck your chin to your chest and hold for up to 30 seconds. This forward bend can also be done with your feet wider than shoulder width.
  4. Cat-cow. This not only stretches the shoulders but the back as well. Situate yourself on the floor on all fours. Hands should be underneath the shoulders and hips above the knees. Inhale and let the belly sink down as your head and chest lift up. Exhale, tuck the chin and round the spine for the opposite motion. Repeat slowly up to 30 seconds.
  5. Needle thread. Situate yourself on the floor on all fours. Hands should be underneath the shoulders and hips above the knees. Extend one arm from the shoulder underneath the opposite arm in a lateral motion with palms up. Turn your head that direction and rest the side of your head on the floor as your body gently rests on your shoulder. You should be supported by both knees and not pushing onto the shoulder. Hold this position up to 30 seconds and switch sides.

To maintain shoulder health, it is always recommended to keep an active lifestyle that incorporates some form of stretching and recovery. Keeping hydrated is important as well as maintaining good posture. Self massage or professional massages can help relieve muscle tightness. Reducing stress may alleviate and prevent shoulder tightness. Addressing tightness early with self-care or medical attention is important to prevent a worsening condition.


The UFit Team