Shoulder Pain - stretching tips

Is your shoulder pain limiting your quality of life? 

Looking for stretches that will help? 

Before doing any of these stretches, make sure to check with your healthcare provider that these are appropriate for your specific shoulder condition. If in doubt, ask us! We can help.

That is the Drummond Difference. 


Before trying any stretching, verify with your personal healthcare provider that these stretches are appropriate for your specific condition. Hopefully your personal healthcare provider is one of us here at Drummond Chiropractic.

Shoulder Rolls

shoulder rolls

To loosen your upper back and shoulder muscles, raise your shoulders to your ears and then roll them as far back as you can and as far down away from your ears as you can (Figure above). Move them forward and back up to complete the circle. Slowly repeat this rotation five times.

Breathe in as you raise your shoulders, and breathe out as you roll them back and down. This allows you to combine stretching with a calming breath, which helps calm the mind (an important activity to do throughout a stressful work day). Remember, stress is the cause of all dis-ease that leads to disease. So find ways like this to relax, rejuvenate, and heal throughout the day. 

Arms Over Head Stretch

arms over head stretch for shoulders

When you stretch your arms over your head, you work the muscles in your back and shoulders. To do this stretch, interlace your fingers and stretch your arms straight up over your head with your palms turned up (Figure 10-5). Keep your shoulders away from your ears and your elbows straight. Hold your arms above your head and breathe five slow breaths.

If you do this stretch while standing, be careful not to hyperextend your lower back by sticking your buttocks out too far. Keep space in your low back as you lift your arms up and back.

External Shoulder Rotation

external shoulder rotation stretch

To do the external shoulder rotation, stretch your arms out in front of you, palms down (Figure 10-6). Then extend your arms to the sides, moving horizontally, while rotating your palms upward. Be sure to engage the muscles between your shoulder blades as you bring your arms out.

Reverse the movement, slowly bringing your arms forward and rotating your palms down. Repeat the stretch a few times. This warms up the shoulders and works on external rotation (a movement we don’t do naturally while working at a computer). 

Arm Raise

shoulder abduction stretch

When you sit (often hunched over) at your computer for hours, your arms and palm down the whole time unless you mindfully do a stretch like this. To do the arm raise, bring your arms up, palms up, to form a V, and squeeze your shoulders back and down (Figure 10-7). Slowly lower them back to your sides and repeat a few times. Do this stretch frequently to offset the effects of long-term keyboard use.

This stretch helps old blood and lymph drain out of the upper extremities. When you lower your arms, nutrient-filled blood replenishes them (helping you heal from conditions like carpal tunnel or tendonitis). I like to do this stretch at least once an hour while at a computer. It stretches your lateral side muscles (latissimus dorsi) and strengthens your rhomboid muscles.

Hands Behind Head Neck Traction for neck and shoulder relief

neck and shoulder stretch

All day long, your arms are down in front of you. This stretch involves doing the opposite of what you do all day. Interlace your fingers behind your head (Figure 10-8). Tuck your chin in, press your head back into your hands, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this for five breaths. This stretch stretches the back of your neck and the front of your chest while strengthening the mid-back muscles.

This stretch can be done while seated or standing. If you are standing, be careful not to arch your back too much into extension (you want the mid-back to arch, not the lower back to compress).

Pectoral Stretch To Combat Pain From Slouching

pectoral stretch for shoulder pain

The pectorals are the muscles in the upper chest. To stretch these muscles, place your hands behind your back and interlace your fingers (Figure above). Straighten your elbows and lift your hands away from your buttocks (squeezing your shoulder blades together). In addition to stretching your pectorals, this exercise strengthens your rhomboids in the middle of your back. It also increases extension throughout your mid-back.

If you are doing this stretch while seated and your chair back is low enough, arch your back over the chair back as you squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for five, deep slow breaths.

You may feel or hear a few pops in your mid-back with this stretch, which is a good thing! It means your body is self-adjusting. If the relief from this self-adjustment lasts less than an hour, you still have a restricted joint in that area that didn’t pop. If you feel this tension and lack of relief, I would advise seeing a chiropractor to get the restricted joints professionally released. 

A Standing Version Of The Pectoral Stretch

pectoral stretch in doorway for shoulder pain

In this variation of the pectoral stretch, you stretch the pectoral muscles by standing in a doorway, placing your left palm against the doorframe with your arm at a 45-degree angle upward, and leaning into the doorway to open up the left chest (Figure 10-10). To add a stretch to your anterior neck muscles, turn your head to the right (away from the raised arm). Repeat on the other side.

This is a great stretch to relieve shoulder pain, pain down the arm, swelling of the arm and hands, and upper back pain.  

Standing-In-Doorway Shoulder Stretches

standing in doorway shoulder stretch one

standing in door way for shoulder pain two

standing in doorway for shoulder pain stretch 3

Pectoral stretch with arms at various heights to stretch different muscle fibers in the anterior shoulder and chest.

You can loosen up the muscles surrounding the shoulders further by doing the doorway stretch with your arm at a steeper angle above and below your shoulder (Figures above). Varying the angle of the stretch allows you to stretch the various muscles of the anterior shoulder. It is a good way to warm up for the next stretch of the lateral chest muscles.

Wall Arm Stretch To Improve Shoulder Range Of Motion

walking up wall for shoulder pain

crawling up wall for shoulder pain

Shoulder stretch walking hands up the wall and then leaning into the wall to deepen the stretch.

Shoulders tend to tighten and lose their flexibility in abduction, limiting the range of motion of raising your arm above the horizon. A stiff shoulder leads to a stiff neck. Combat this by periodically raising your arms high above your head.

If you have difficulty raising your arms, walk your hand up a wall (Figure above). Then lean into your arm against the wall to assist the stretch. Be careful not to hurt your shoulder. If you feel a stretch, you are improving your range of motion. If you feel a strain, you are harming your shoulder. 

Arm-Across-Body Stretch

arm across shoulder pain stretch

This stretch works the posterior shoulder muscles. Begin by pulling your right arm across your body with your left hand just above the right elbow (Figure above). Rest your right hand behind your left shoulder. The farther you bring the right elbow toward your left shoulder, the deeper the stretch in your shoulder. You may even feel the upper back muscles stretching, which is good as long as you don’t stretch to the point of pain and strain.

The shoulder is a very complicated joint with multiple small muscles that work together to move the shoulder in many different directions. Feel free to explore different angles of stretches by raising and lowering the elbow as you bring it across; this stretches different groups of muscles in the back of the shoulder and back.

You can add to this stretch by pressing your right elbow into your left hand, causing an isometric contraction of the muscles in the back of your upper right arm. Hold this contraction for three slow breaths, then relax your right arm and use your left hand to bring your right arm deeper into the stretch cautiously (do not pull too hard because you can overstretch the muscles). Repeat this up to three times. After releasing, rotate your shoulders a few times to help fully release the stretch. Then repeat on the other side.

Triceps And Lateral Body Stretch

triceps stretch for shoulder pain

This stretch works the muscles in the back of your arm and those down the side of your torso. To perform the stretch, lift your right arm up, then bend your elbow so your right hand is dangling behind your head (Figure 10-14). Use your left hand to gently pull your right elbow even farther behind your head. Hold for three breaths. Do not overstretch. If you feel a painful strain, then you are literally straining your muscles and/or spraining your shoulder, potentially causing damage. Repeat on the other side.

This stretch is best done while standing, but it can be done in a seated position. 

Cow Face Pose (A Deeper Triceps Stretch)

cow face for shoulder pain

The cow face pose (also known as Apley’s stretch) is another stretch that is easily done throughout the day. The stretch requires you to reach for your hands behind your back, which helps improve both your posture and the flexibility of the mid-back. 

Reach your left hand up and over your left shoulder while reaching your right hand behind your back from below. Try to grab your right hand with your left hand (Figure above). Hold your position for a few breaths and then switch your arm positions.

If you can’t reach your fingers, modify the stretch using a towel or strap (Figure below). If you use a strap, be careful that you don’t overstretch. Listen to the limitations of your body.

cow face with towel for shoulder pain

Figure  for modified cow face pose with strap. 

You can watch my YouTube video for a more detailed explanation of how to go from a modified cow face pose to the full pose using the post-isometric technique on my YouTube Channel:


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google reviews saying drummond chiropractic is the best chiropractor

Dr. Karen and Dr. Mandy are true professionals, who genuinely care about their patients. They are very personable and engaging with their patients. I would recommend her for any of your chiropractic needs. I have had various needs for my back and shoulders - they have always provided me relief. That are truly the best!

We will get to the root cause of your shoulder pain, so when we treat it, it will not only feel better but be less likely to return. All the chiropractors at Drummond Chiropractic are shoulder experts. Once of us should be able to see you today!

We have all the effective tools for should pain:  

Dry Needling (link above), Graston, Dynamic Tape, etc.
Let's free up your shoulder, so you can get back to pain free living! 
Be able to lift your children, grand children, and/or fur babies without pain. 
Play golf, basketball, tennis, any sport better than ever.
Be able to reach up and hug some one with a smile instead of a grimace.
We love getting our patients feeling better in the new decade than they did in the past.
Here is to a healthier and happier you!

You may be surprised to find out that your shoulder pain is a symptom of a nerve being pinched in your neck, lymphatic back up, tendonosis of an arm muscle, or maybe it is caused by something wrong with your shoulder. Regardless of the cause of your shoulder pain, we will find it with a thorough history and exam, then determine the best treatment plan for it, even if it means referring you out. We are more affordable than orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists, so start with us, and if able, we will get you back on your feet as soon as possible. 

Dr. Michael McCoy is more than a spine specialist as a chiropractor, but also a joint (including shoulder pain) specialist. He not only will work on your shoulder, but any issue that may be contributing to your shoulder condition. He can train you on how to restrengthen your body so that your shoulder is less vulnerable to re-injury.

Once we determine that we can help your shoulder pain, we will treat same day, demonstrate home exercises and stretches you can do to speed your recovery. 

We will follow up the appointment with a Report of Findings email that details what your condition is, what our treatment plan is and lists the prescribed exercises and stretches, complete with videos that you can follow along with. To learn more, check out:

All of our chiropractors specialize in shoulder pain.


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Drummond Chiropractic, LLC
Your Downtown Shoulder Pain Specialists
565 N Walnut St,
Bloomington, IN 47404

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