Shoulder Stretches for Back Pain

Here are some shoulder stretches that can help relieve back pain. The shoulders are often compromised by repetitive motions that we do in our daily lives, whether it’s holding the phone with our ear, using a computer mouse or looking down to a computer screen hunching the shoulders. The shoulders contain the second most overused muscle group in the body, the upper trapezius muscles (commonly referred to as ‘traps’) which are located at the base of the neck and this area is one of the first to store tension in the body, creating radiating back and neck pain.

These stretches are most effective if you breathe deeply and hold them at least twenty seconds. The depth of your breath will help to relax the tension in the muscles as you stretch them. If you have a serious injury, torn rotator cuff, torn ligaments, dislocation, nerve pinching, slipped disks or anything else that is abnormal, seek the advice of your physician before trying these stretches.

Puppy Pose

For this stretch, start out on all fours in a table top position with your hands stacked under your shoulders and your knees stack under your hips. Keep your arms no wider than shoulder distance apart as you walk your hands forward. You want to keep your hips stacked directly over your knees and relax your chest towards the ground. Be sure to point your tailbone up towards the ceiling as you do this. You will feel a stretch in the armpits, the triceps and deltoids. Try to keep your arms straight in this pose and hold it for five rounds of deep breath. Repeat it three times and do your best to do it everyday.

Roll Over Shoulder Stretch

Begin by laying on your stomach and place your right arm out perpendicular to your body with your palm facing down. Place your left palm facing down under your left shoulder. Make sure your right arm is directly out from your body creating a ‘T’ and then roll over your right shoulder so your belly lifts off the ground and you’re resting on your right hip. In order to balance, bend your left leg and place the bottom of your left foot on the ground behind your right leg. Rest the side of your head on the ground and relax your neck and shoulders as much as you can. Try to hold this stretch 1-2 minutes and then repeat the same thing on the other side.

Strap Stretch

Find a tie or a strap and sit upright on your heels. Place your hands a few feet apart on the strap with your palms facing down. Lift your arms up and over your head so your arms make a circle behind and rest behind you by your back. Be sure to keep your stomach tight by pulling your lower belly in so your lower back won’t arch too much. As you slowly circle your arms back and forth you can start to bring your hands closer together. Do about 20 repetitions and rest. As you do this stretch try to keep your arms straight.

Shoulders To Ears Stretch

As you take a deep breath in, bring your shoulders up to your ears. As you exhale just let your shoulders fall. The weight as you let them drop will help you relax. Repeat this six times and try to really just let your shoulders fall with gravity. This can be done throughout the day whenever you start to feel a little bit of tenseness in your back or neck.

Doorway Stretch

Find a narrow doorway like a closet door and place your elbows in the frame with your fingers pointing up. Lean forward and take deep breaths. This will help to open up your pectoral muscles and counteract the hunching position we often default to when sitting at work, driving or at home. Hold this stretch at least twenty seconds and then repeat it three times.

It’s important to stretch your shoulders for at least 10 minutes everyday. Think of this as preventive maintenance that will keep your tension from building up. It can help you feel relaxed and allow your back pain to be significantly reduced. Remember hunching forward with your shoulders or looking down for prolonged periods of time will strain your back and cause back pain. It’s equally important to focus on good posture and ergonomic positions throughout your day. Get up and stretch every 20 minutes so your body doesn’t become stiff and you should notice a difference in your pain level.


Shannon Yrizarry

Shannon Yrizarry is a health and wellness professional who was healed from chronic back pain in 2003 after studying the mind-body connection. She went on to study the physical and mental benefits of yoga and now teaches classes and workshops in Southern California. She has also worked as an organic health consultant and writes about how to eat a clean whole foods diet incorporating gluten-free, raw, and dairy free options.