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Five Stretches for a Sore Shoulder

By Beth Jennings, PT, MPT

Having sore shoulders after a weekend of house projects or a heavy workout may not be a surprise, but what if you can’t target why your shoulder hurts? Some minor or even moderate pain in the shoulder can simply be a mechanical issue.

It’s like this. When your car’s front end is out of alignment, the tires wear unevenly. Similarly, if your shoulder is out of balance – in the form of tightness, weakness, or poor posture – your shoulder will not be working in its ideal position. And eventually, this could create a pinching sensation when you reach overhead.

Posture’s Influence

Can you put your hips, shoulders, and head against a wall without much strain and without your chin tipping up? 

Ideally, you should be able to stand with your ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over ankles.

Can you lie flat on your back without a pillow? Bonus points if you can touch the back of your hands to the floor with your shoulders and elbows at 90-degree angles.

In a culture more prone to sitting and watching TV, working on computers, or scrolling through messages on smartphones, many people develop a forward-head posture. 

This forward-head posture promotes tight chest muscles and weaker back and shoulder muscles resulting in an imbalance that may create pain.

Five Shoulder Stretches

You should not be feeling pain or pinching in the shoulder or neck while performing any of these stretches.

1.  Neck extensors

Stand in your best posture. Pull your head back, making a double chin while keeping your chin level with the floor. Hold briefly and release.

2.  Levator scapula 

Stand in good posture. Rotate your head halfway to the left, then drop your chin to your chest. Reach your right hand up to touch the top of your right shoulder blade. You should feel a stretch on the backside of your neck/shoulder on the right. Repeat in the other direction.

3.  Pectoralis major and minor

Stand facing a corner or doorway with your hands on the wall slightly higher than your head and elbows bent at about 90 degrees. Step forward slightly until you feel a gentle stretch across your chest. Adjust the height of your hands (higher or lower) if you are feeling a pinch in your shoulder.

4.  Latissimus dorsi

Kneel and sit on your heels. Keep your buttocks from lifting as you drop your chest and forehead to the floor, arms reaching out in front (child’s pose in yoga). 

Alternative: Sit in a chair, several feet from a table with your hands outstretched in front. Drop your chest low towards the floor with your arms stretched overhead as your palms are face down on the table. 

You should feel a stretch along the rib cage in the back.

5.  Thoracic spine

Stand with your hands clasped behind your low back (or place your hands on your back pockets). Lift your chest, pinch your shoulder blades together, and extend your upper back slightly.

Correct How You Work

Consider the positions you are in much of the day. If you sit at a desk, improve your posture by keeping your elbows close to your sides. 

Keep your chest lifted, head sitting over your shoulders as you walk.

If you notice you adjust the rear-view mirror when you get back in your car at night, consider lifting your posture back up instead. 

FYZICAL – Forest Grove would love to help you with the shoulder pain that won’t go away easily. Contact us. We’re here when you need us.    

Beth Jennings, PT, MPT is a freelance writer and a physical therapist.

Disclaimer This blog is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


Turgut E, Duzgun I, Baltaci G. Stretching Exercises for Subacromial Impingement Syndrome: Effects of 6-Week Program on Shoulder Tightness, Pain, and Disability Status. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 2018;27(2):132-137. Accessed May 31, 2021.