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Got Tight Shoulders? Try These 9 Simple Stretches for Relief

Do you often feel tension, soreness, or achiness in your shoulders, especially after long work days slumped over a computer? Do you have difficulty raising your arms over your head to reach objects on a high shelf? Or find it a challenge to reach behind your back to clasp your bra or scratch an itch?

You’re not alone. Tight, immobile shoulders are a common problem for many adults living a sedentary modern lifestyle. Staying hunched over desks and devices for hours on end – day after day – can make the shoulder muscles tighten up and lose their natural range of motion.

Tight shoulders can limit your arm mobility, cause neck and upper back pain, restrict your ability to exercise or play sports, and just generally make everyday activities more challenging and uncomfortable.

The good news? There are many simple stretches you can do right at home to loosen up tight shoulders and restore mobility. The key is stretching the muscles and joints through their full range of motion to get synovial fluid flowing smoothly again and re-lengthen the muscles.

Try incorporating these 9 go-to shoulder stretches into your daily routine to keep your upper body limber. Best of all, you don’t need any equipment – just do them anytime, anywhere for quick relief!

1. Shoulder Rolls

  • Stand or sit tall with arms relaxed at your sides.
  • Initiate movement from the shoulders, not the neck.
  • Roll shoulders up, back, down and forward in a smooth circular motion.
  • Repeat for 30-60 seconds in each direction.

This basic stretch limbers up the shoulder joints through their comfortable range of motion to loosen things up. The motion also promotes blood flow to the muscles.

2. Shoulder Circles

  • Stand tall with arms outstretched to sides at shoulder height, palms down.
  • Make small circles with both shoulders, moving them backward.
  • After 30 seconds, reverse the movement and circle shoulders forward.
  • Make the circles progressively larger.

Circling the shoulders helps warm up the shoulder joints and surrounding muscles. Lifting arms overhead also helps open up the chest.

3. Upper Back Opener

  • Interlace fingers behind back, palms facing each other.
  • Straighten arms fully and raise them behind you.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • For a deeper stretch, grab a towel and hold it taut between your hands.

This move stretches the chest and front of the shoulders, while strengthening upper back muscles which get tight from slouching. Together this improves posture.

4. Arm Crosses

  • Extend arms straight out to sides, parallel to floor at shoulder height.
  • Cross right arm over left, bending left arm at the elbow. Use right hand to gently pull left arm closer to chest until light stretch is felt.
  • Hold 20 seconds then switch sides, crossing left arm over right.
  • Repeat 2-3x each side.

Crossing the arms like this allows you to gently stretch the back of the shoulders as well as the outer arm and side of the torso in ways you can’t with other moves.

5. Corner Stretch

  • Stand facing a corner, feet about a foot from the wall on both sides.
  • Place your palms flat on the corner walls at just below shoulder height.
  • Keeping back straight, slowly lean body gently forward into corner until you feel a comfortable stretch in your shoulders.
  • Hold 20-30 seconds.

Using the corner for leverage, this move subtly works to open the chest, stretch the front of the shoulders, and reverse rounded shoulders.

6. Towel Assisted External Rotation

  • Hold one end of a towel behind your back with one hand.
  • Grasp the other end of the towel with your other hand.
  • Keeping elbows bent at 90 degrees, pull the towel diagonally across your body to rotate your shoulders externally.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

This mimics the motion your shoulders go through when reaching behind your back and helps stretch the smaller muscles between the shoulder blades.

7. Wall Slide Stretch

  • Stand with your back against a wall, feet about a foot away.
  • Raise your arms up overhead into a “Y”, keeping them straight as you slide hands up the wall.
  • Slide back down and repeat 3-5x.
  • Focus on good posture throughout the move.

Reaching arms overhead fully extends the shoulder joints through their range of motion while keeping the body aligned. The wall prevents arching the lower back as you stretch.

8. Doorway Chest Stretch

  • Stand in a doorway with feet together and extend arms out to your sides.
  • Gently lean forward until you feel a stretch across your chest and front of your shoulders.
  • Hold for 20-30 seconds.
  • For a deeper stretch, add a slight twist so one shoulder is forward and one back.

This simple move opens up the chest and front of the shoulders in a functional way, since most tightness develops from slouching forward.

9. Side-Lying Internal Rotation

  • Lay on your side and bend your elbow at 90 degrees, hand in line with chest.
  • Keeping elbow pinned to side, rotate your shoulder to lower hand towards floor.
  • Use your other hand to lightly press down on arm to increase stretch.
  • Hold 20-30 seconds and switch sides.

Lying on your side lets you isolate and stretch the back of the shoulder – the muscles that get worked in internal rotation from daily activities.

Be Kind to Your Shoulders

Focus on proper form and move slowly through these stretches – no bouncing or forcing the movement. Light tension is normal but back off if you feel sharp or radiating pain. Stretching daily is ideal for maintenance.

Pair stretching with shoulder strengthening exercises that target the external rotators and back muscles. Having balanced flexibility and mobility on all sides keeps the shoulders stable and injury-free.

By taking just 10-15 minutes a day to loosen up your shoulders, you’ll maintain your arm mobility and keep this key joint feeling smooth and comfortable even when life keeps you desk-bound. Don’t let tight shoulders limit you!