What exercises can help relieve shoulder pain?

Before beginning any exercise program, be sure to see your doctor. Shoulder pain can be caused by many different things, but the most common is when the soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons or nerves) get compressed between the bony structures. This can be structural, meaning that the design of the particular shoulder is what is causing it or could be functional, meaning that the position of the shoulder is leading to the pain. The exercises are most useful if the condition is functional.

The first step is to take notice of your posture. Are your shoulders and head rounded forward? This can be a sign of possible shoulder impingement. If you are in this position, do not be alarmed—most people are, and this is common in today's computer and commuting society.

To address the shoulders rounding forward, first perform a wall pec stretch. To do this simply get in a doorway with both forearms placed on the frame of the door. Draw your naval into your spine and step slightly through the door to stretch the pectoral muscles. Hold this for at least 30 seconds and perform 2 times. Next, the lat stretch. For this you can use an exercise ball or a chair. Get down on your hands and knees, with one arm below the shoulder. The other arm goes up on the ball. Draw the naval in, and lower your shoulder closer to the floor to stretch. Perform on each side for 2 sets with 30 second hold. Next, the exercises. These can be performed on the exercise ball. Position the ball comfortably near your hips (you're facing the floor), lock out your knees and contract your buttocks to make sure you're stable. Then, with the arms locked out, bring them over your head to make a big "Y," hold this for 2 seconds, then bring the arms out to make a big "T," hold briefly (thumbs should be pointing straight up to the ceiling). Then bring the arms down to your sides making a big "A" and again make sure the thumbs are pointing to the ceiling. Hold briefly, then return to your "Y" position.

Perform 15 to 20 repetitions, very slowly for 2 sets. An important note: always make sure you perform the stretching exercises first. This allows the body to use the muscles you are intending to use. As always, if you have any additional questions, feel free to ask me or seek the help of any NASM-certified personal trainer.

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Fitness Specialist

Whatever the cause of your shoulder pain, stretching exercises are likely to ease the discomfort. In this video, Dr. Oz guest Dr. Mike Clark demonstrates some exercises that can reduce shoulder pain.

These exercises will help you move your shoulder in a full range of motion. Start slowly and don’t force movement. Apply shower or moist heat pad to the shoulders if you find the exercises painful. You will gradually build strength and flexibility if you perform these exercises daily.

  • While standing or sitting, clasp your hands behind your head. Pull your elbows together until they are as close as possible in front of your chin. Separate your elbows to the side as much as possible. Repeat, gradually increasing to 5, then 10, then up to 20 repetitions.
  • Make large arm circles. Starting with your arms at your sides, bring them all the way up toward the ceiling and then as far behind your body as comfortable, in a huge circle. Repeat several times.
  • While standing or sitting, roll shoulders in a forward circle; raise shoulders toward the ears in a shrugging motion. Roll shoulders back and chest out as in a military stance. Lower the shoulders and bring the shoulders forward. Think of it as a simple shoulder roll in a circle. Now reverse the process, rolling your shoulder girdle in a backward circle.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.