5 stretches for shoulder pain that you can do at home

Shoulder pain is a frequent issue among adults. In fact, shoulder pain is one of the most common regional pain syndromes, affecting up to 26% of adults. Shoulder pain is annoying at best and debilitating at worst. It can interfere with regular activities such as golf or tennis. If it worsens, it can even cause headaches and stiffness in nearby muscles and joints. 

But just because shoulder pain is a common occurrence, that doesn’t mean it should be. Stretching can improve shoulder pain and stiffness. Find out what the main symptoms of shoulder pain are and what stretches for shoulder pain may help.

Symptoms of shoulder pain

Sometimes, shoulder pain occurs after an intense workout or injury. If your symptoms go away in a day or so, it’s considered a temporary symptom, but if you’re dealing with shoulder pain over an extended period of time, you may need to do something about it. 

Shoulder pain comes with a variety of symptoms, some minor and others debilitating. Here’s a list of some common symptoms of shoulder pain

  • A dull, chronic ache in the shoulder and down the back.
  • Pain or tension at the top of the shoulder (this can be accompanied by a headache).
  • A cracking or grinding sound when rotating your shoulder.
  • Limited mobility or range of motion.
  • Pins-and-needles, tingling, or numbness down your arm and into your fingers (if this is accompanied by a racing heart, sweating or any other symptom that could be associated with a heart attack, call 911 immediately).
  • Sharp, stabbing pain during certain movements.


If you’re experiencing chronic shoulder pain, it may not go away on its own. Stretching can help shoulder pain, and an MRI can be a helpful tool in diagnosing the root cause. There are multiple causes of shoulder pain, including:

  • A pinched nerve — If a nerve in or near your shoulder blade gets pinched, it can trigger traveling pain. This pain can go from the shoulder up to the neck or down the arm.
  • Osteoarthritis — The cartilage in your joint can wear down after years of repetitive motion, leading to inflammation and pain in the shoulder joint. 
  • Tendinitis — When the tendons that attach the shoulder muscle to the bone get inflamed, it’s called tendinitis. An injury or repetitive movement in the shoulder joint over a long period of time can cause this. 
  • Rotator cuff injury — Injury from a sport or recreational activity can cause a rotator cuff injury. Additionally, jobs that require repetitive arm movements can also be to blame, such as painting, carpentry, or lifting heavy boxes or inventory.

Though serious shoulder injuries may require surgery, many issues can also be treated through stretching and exercises. Stretches for shoulder pain can ease discomfort and increase your range of motion, but you have to know how to do them properly so you don’t damage your shoulder even further. 

Stretches for shoulder pain

If you’re dealing with chronic pain, stretching can ease shoulder pain, release tension and increase mobility. Here are five stretches for shoulder pain that may bring you relief:

  • Cross shoulder stretch — Cross one arm over your body. Using your free hand, grab your elbow and hold it against your chest. Maintain this position for 10 seconds, and then switch to the other side. 
  • Wing span stretch — Raise one arm above your head and bend it so your elbow is facing the ceiling while your hand is touching your back. Reach behind your back with your other arm so your elbow is facing the floor and your hands are trying to meet in the middle of your back. Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch to the other side.
  • Doorway stretch — Place your elbows on either side of an open door frame so that your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Press your palm against the frame as you step forward with your right foot, slightly bending your knee until you feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds, and then switch to the other foot.
  • Neck release — Lower your chin until it’s resting on your chest; then gently tilt your head to the left to stretch the right shoulder. Be sure to keep your chin down and resting against your chest as much as possible. Hold the stretch for up to one minute, and then switch over to the opposite side.
  • Seated twist — Sit in a chair with your feet planted on the floor in front of you. Bring your right hand over to your left thigh, twisting your body to the left. Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds, and then return to rest position and alternate to the opposite side.

These stretches for shoulder pain can help with mild pain and discomfort. But if you’re dealing with significant chronic pain, or if your shoulder pain gets worse over the course of a few weeks, you may need to see a physical therapist to find lasting relief.

How physical therapy can help

Sometimes, simple stretches for shoulder pain aren’t enough. If your pain hasn’t gone away or is growing worse, physical therapy may provide the help you need. At Lattimore, we use a variety of treatments that can help, including:

  • Hands-on therapy.
  • Therapeutic stretching and exercises.
  • Joint mobilization.
  • Kinesiology taping.

If you’re dealing with chronic shoulder pain, don’t wait until it gets worse. Physical therapy may provide the relief you’ve been looking for. Contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.

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