Top 5 Exercises to Relieve Shoulder Pain and Tightness

Shoulder pain and tightness can cause discomfort and limit your range of motion. If the tightness remains unchecked, you can develop neck pain and tension headaches. The pain and tightness affect the following parts of the shoulder:

  • Deltoid (anterior, lateral, posterior), a thick triangular shoulder muscle
  • Biceps brachii, a large muscle in the upper arm
  • Triceps or the large muscle at the back of the upper arm
  • Rotator cuff (infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, and teres minor): A group of muscles and tendons surrounding the shoulder joint
  • Pectoralis major and minor: The muscles that connect the front chest walls with the bones in the shoulder and upper arm.

Causes of shoulder pain and tightness include:

  • Shoulder impingement: Occurs when the rotator cuff rubs between the humerus and the edge of the shoulder, leading to swelling, pain, as well as irritation.
  • Subacromial bursitis: An inflammation that happens when muscles, ligaments, and tendons overlap.
  • Tendonitis: When a tendon swells after an injury.
  • Rotator cuff tears: The tendon tears away from the bone, causing shoulder pain and weakness
  • Labral tear of the shoulder: A part of the cartilage ring tears, frays, or experiences disruption.

Exercises to Improve Shoulder Pain and Tightness Symptoms

These exercises are beneficial in relieving symptoms of frozen shoulder and pain:

1.      Shoulder Flexion

You need a wand or a broom handle for the exercise:

  • Lie on your back and hold the rod with both hands. The palms should face down and be slightly wider than the shoulders.
  • Keep the elbows straight and raise your arms slowly over the head. You should feel a stretch in the shoulders, chest, and upper back.
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Do 1-2 sets, and repeat 10-1s times, 2-3 times a day.

2.      Flexion, Abduction, or Scaption Wall Slides in Standing

Scaption involves lifting your arms from the sides to the front at a 30-45-degree angle. The exercises build scapular strength as well as improve stability in the shoulder joint while reducing the risk of injury.

  • Stand facing the wall and walk or slide your fingers up the wall. Avoid rising on your toes or leaning back. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Turn 45 degrees from the wall and walk the fingers or slide them down the wall. Your feet should also remain on the ground. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Stand with your side to the wall. Walk your fingers or slide them down the wall with your feet firmly on the ground. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
  • Do 1-2 sets of each exercise and repeat 10-15 times, 2-3 times a day.

3.      Pectoralis Stretch in Doorway

  • Stand in the open doorway and raise each arm, bending them at 90-degrees. The palms should be forward-facing as you rest them on the door frame.
  • Step forward slowly with one foot, feeling the stretch in your shoulders and chest. Stand upright and don’t lean forward.
  • Hold for 30 seconds and take a step back.
  • Repeat at least three times.

4.      Sleeper Stretch in Side-Lying

  • Lie on a mat on your right side
  • Bend your knees slightly
  • Stretch your right arm ahead
  • Bring the left hand on top of the right one
  • Maintain a gaze on the left hand
  • Reach the left hand straight up
  • Rotate the left hand toward the back as if drawing an arch
  • The knees and hips remain pointing to the right
  • Bring the left hand to meet the right
  • Repeat the motions
  • Turnover and do the same for the other side

5.      Shoulder Shrugs, Rolls, and Squeezes

  • Sit up tall in a chair with your hands at the side and feet slightly apart.
  • Raise your shoulders upward towards the ears and inhale deeply.
  • Push them backward and slowly move them down as you exhale deeply.
  • Go back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Do 1-2 sets of the exercises and repeat 15-20 times, 2-3 times a day

A trained physical therapist can help you develop an exercise plan to improve your strength, range of motion, posture, as well as decrease pain to get you back to your prior level of function. They will also diagnose other possible impairments that could be responsible for your shoulder pain and tightness.

At Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation, we will also work with you to prevent any future injuries or occurrences. Contact us today to request a physical therapy appointment.