Stiffness and body pain is extraordinarily common, especially in today’s day and age of desk jobs, long commutes, and time spent sitting watching your favorite television shows. Little things like sleeping in the wrong position can cause enough pain in your shoulders and back to affect your daily life (1). Rather than taking some painkillers, here are some stretches that will help you cure your neck and shoulder pain naturally, and hopefully for good (1).
What Causes a Stiff Neck and Tight Shoulders?
Neck pain and stiff shoulders can come from a wide number of disorders and diseases and can involve any of the muscles or tissues in the neck and shoulders (2, 3). That being said, a stiff neck is usually caused by weak neck muscles, resulting in soreness and difficulty in moving the neck (1). Similar issues occur in the back and shoulders. Excessive stress, poor posture, sports injuries, regular injuries, awkward or uncomfortable sleeping positions, sprains, and infections can all cause pain in the neck, back, and shoulders (1).
If you are experiencing severe, unusual pain in your neck, back, or shoulders, you should see a doctor in order to get your issue properly diagnosed. However, if you believe your pain is coming from stress, exercise, or other normal activities, then you might do well to practice some simple stretches!
Exercises To Help Release Tension & Improve Mobility
Upper Trapezius Release Exercise
This can help with muscle fatigue and spasms.
- Place your arms at your sides with facing your palms up.
- Bring your shoulder up to your ear. Squeeze for 3 – 4 seconds that relax.
- Repeat 10 – 14 times.
Chin tucks increase flexibility and reduce pressure on your spinal nerves.
- Sit straight squeezing your shoulder blades together.
- Slowly tuck your chin back making a double-chin. You can guide this movement with your finger.
- You shouldn’t feel pain, but a stretch only.
- Hold for 15 – 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
Neck Ball Squeeze and Roll
This is great for tight upper back muscles.
- Lie down and put a tennis ball on your neck. Hold it with your chin and roll.
Cross-Body Arm Stretch
This is fantastic for improving range of motion and stiffness.
- Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bring one arm chest-level across the chest.
- Stretch for 10 seconds using the help of the other arm.
- Do 5 – 10 reps each side.
Straight-Arm Wall Stretch
This is great for lengthening and strengthening your muscles and improving your posture.
- Flatten your arm against the wall, palm facing the wall, arms parallel to the ground.
- Press your shoulder to the wall, move your chest away to stretch.
- Hold for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat the other side as well.
Side Neck Stretch
This is great for your neck.
- Keep your shoulders relaxed.
- Tilt your left ear towards your right shoulder. You can use your hand to help.
- Hold for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat 3 times each side.
Thread the Needle
This is helpful for stiffness and pain.
- Get on your hands and knees.
- Slide the right arm between the left hand and left knee until your head rests on the floor.
- Inhale and reach your left arm up.
- Hold for 3 – 6 breaths. Do it on the other side.
This can help with muscle release and tight shoulders.
- Get on all fours. Cross your right knee to the left then sit down between your legs. You can use a block if you have tight hips.
- While inhaling reach your right arm to the ride, then rotate the arm inwards. While exhaling, move your arm behind your back working your hands up towards your neck. Ideally, your hands will touch. You can use a strap if need to.
- Hold for 20 – 30 seconds. Do 3 reps on each side.
Reverse Prayer Pose
This is fantastic for stretching the upper back and for chest opening.
- Sit or stand with your spine long. Inhale then exhale and bring your arms behind you palms together.
- Rotate your arms towards the sky. Your arms may come apart.
- Bring your palms together again. Repeat 3 – 4 times.
This is great for spine flexibility.
- Get on all fours.
- Breath in and pull your abs in. Arch your back like a cat.
- Return to your initial posture, then extend your head and butt up into an extension like a cow.
- Repeat 5 times.
Trapezius Muscle Stretch
This is fantastic for tight trapezius muscles.
- Stand tall in a relaxed position.
- Lift your right shoulder blade up and back. Lean your head back and move your right ear towards should shoulder.
- Contract for 30 seconds.
- Do this several times a day each side if both sides are hurting. If only one side is painful, only do it that side.
Double Anterior Shoulder Stretch
This is fantastic for tight shoulders.
- Stand straight hands clasped behind you.
- Raise your arms up until you feel a stretch.
- Hols for 30 seconds.
- You may bend forward for more stretch.
- Repeat 3 times.
Chest Foam Rolling
This is fantastic for a tight chest.
- Lie on your stomach. Place the foam roller inside the armpit and shoulder, and roll slowly outward.
- Stop at any tender area to hold for 30 seconds, then move to the next tender point.
This is fantastic to open up your chest.
- Stand in the doorway holding onto it with your arm at a 90-degree angle.
- Rotate your chest until a stretch.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat the other side.
This is great for your neck.
- Sit in a chair with back straight looking.
- Turn your head one side as far as possible.
- Hold for 2 – 3 seconds then repeat on the other side.
These exercises can help stretch your body, strengthen and lengthen your muscles, improve your posture, and reduce pain and stiffness. Regular practice is key. Ideally, you want to do them daily, however, under less than ideal circumstances, aim for 4 times a week. Remember, consistency is your ticket to success.
Other Tips To Improve Flexibility & Reduce Muscle Pain
These exercises may not be enough. You have to remind yourself to practice good posture and to relax your muscles as much as possible.
- Visualize yourself standing tall.
- Remind yourself not to slouch.
- Imagine that a string is pulling you towards the ceiling from the top of your head when standing or sitting.
- Relax your muscles.
- Roll your shoulders and stretch regularly.
- Hold your abs tight.
- Make sure your monitor is at the level of your face when using the computer.
- Try a standing desk.
- Use ergonomic office furniture or sit on an exercise ball.
- Get up to walk around and stretch through the day.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
- Use proper pillows and comfortable mattresses.
Be patient and consistent. Your hard work will pay off. Soon enough you will notice that your stiffness, tightness, aches, and pains are disappearing, you are standing taller, and feeling healthier.
Do you have neck or shoulder pain due to bad posture? What will you do to better your posture? Share in the comments below, we want to hear from you.