If you experience tightness and discomfort in your shoulders, you’re not alone. Tight shoulders are very common and can be caused by poor posture, repetitive motions, stress, or injuries. The good news is there are many things you can do to help release a tight upper back and shoulders to get relief. Here are some of the top tips:
Do Shoulder Rolls
One of the simplest ways to start releasing tension in the shoulders is to do shoulder rolls. Sit or stand with your arms relaxed at your sides. Start to roll your shoulders up towards your ears, squeezing them up as high as you comfortably can. Then roll them back and down in a circular motion. Repeat this shoulder roll 5-10 times in each direction. The motion helps warm up the shoulder joints and stretch out the muscles across the upper back.
Stretch Your Chest
Tight chest muscles can contribute to poor posture and hunched shoulders. Spend time each day stretching out your chest to help counteract this. One easy stretch is the corner stretch – stand facing a corner and raise your arms to place your hands on the walls. Step in closer to the corner until you feel a stretch across your chest and front shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds. You can also lie on your back with a foam roller or yoga block vertically along your spine. Open your arms out to a T shape to feel a chest stretch.
Try Shoulder Retractions
Retracting your shoulders helps strengthen the muscles responsible for pulling them back, and improves posture over time. Sit or stand tall and draw your shoulders back and down by pinching your shoulder blades together. Be sure not to hunch or raise your shoulders up. Hold the retraction for 5 seconds, relax, and repeat up to 10 times. Make a habit of retracting your shoulders throughout the day.
Get a Massage
Massage is highly effective for releasing muscle knots and tension in the shoulders. Schedule time for regular therapeutic massages focusing on the upper back and shoulders. The massage therapist will use techniques like kneading, trigger point therapy, and range of motion stretches that reach deeper layers of muscle tissue a self-massage cannot. Massage improves circulation and loosens tight spots to provide tighter shoulders some relief.
Do Shoulder Stretches
Be sure to regularly stretch the front, back and sides of the shoulders. For your front shoulders, interlock your fingers and turn your palms outward in front of your chest. Push your arms forward until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. To open the back shoulders, hold onto a towel or belt behind your back and gently pull the arms back to open the chest. For a side shoulder stretch, take one arm across your body and gently pull on the elbow towards the opposite side until you feel a stretch on the back of the shoulder.
Strengthen Your Back
Weak muscles in the upper back, like the rhomboids between your shoulder blades, can cause the shoulders to round forward. Perform exercises to strengthen your upper back like seated rows, shoulder Y raises, and reverse flys on a regular basis. Use resistance bands or dumbbells starting with lighter weight and higher reps, like 2 sets of 15. Keep the shoulders down and back during strengthening exercises.
Try a Tennis or Lacrosse Ball
Using a tennis or lacrosse ball against a wall or on the floor is an easy way to apply pressure to specific tight spots in the shoulders. Lean into the ball along tense areas like the top of the shoulders or shoulder blades. Roll it around slowly, holding pressure on tense areas for up to 30 seconds until it releases. The ball helps iron out muscle knots and adhesions.
Improve Your Posture
One of the best things you can do to prevent tight shoulders is improving daily posture and mechanics. Be aware of times you shrug, hunch or roll the shoulders forward at a computer, when driving or looking at your phone. Stand up straight, keep the shoulders back and down, and open up the chest throughout the day. Your muscles will thank you.
Do Yoga For Shoulders
Certain yoga poses are extremely beneficial for opening up tight shoulders. Try poses like downward facing dog, cow face pose, Eagle pose, extended side angle, and thread the needle. Hold the poses for 5-10 deep breaths, allowing the weight of your body to provide a deep stretch. Yoga increases muscle flexibility and reduces tension.
Get Deep Tissue Massage
For extreme shoulder tightness that standard massage doesn’t relieve, consider booking a deep tissue massage. Deep tissue massage uses very firm pressure and slow strokes to reach the deepest layers of muscle and fascia. It works out stubborn knots and scar tissue that cause chronic tightness. Although it may be uncomfortable at times, it is highly effective for releasing severely tense shoulders when done properly.
By regularly performing shoulder stretches, exercises, myofascial release techniques, and massage, you can keep the upper back and shoulders flexible and pain-free. Pay attention to posture and take frequent breaks if working at a desk. Reduce stress when possible. Keeping the shoulders healthy and mobile takes consistency, but is well worth the effort for comfort and function.