Exercises including yoga poses and gentle stretches can help lengthen and strengthen the shoulder muscles and relieve pain.

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and bring your awareness to your shoulders, noticing how they feel. Chances are you’ll feel some pain, tension, or sensation in this area.

Shoulder pain or tightness is common, affecting 18 to 26 percent of adults. Luckily, you can take steps to relieve discomfort in your shoulders.

Read on to learn how to do 10 simple shoulder exercises to relieve pain and tightness. These lengthening and strengthening exercises will also improve flexibility, increase your range of motion, and bring greater comfort and ease to your movements.

Do these simple exercises three to six times per week to relieve shoulder pain. Start with a 10-minute routine and gradually increase the duration as you get stronger and more flexible.

While doing these exercises, focus on relaxing and releasing any tension in your shoulders and anywhere else you feel tightness.

Stretch only to the degree that is comfortable on any given day. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits, and discontinue the exercises if you experience pain that goes beyond mild discomfort.

This exercise helps increase flexibility and range of motion in your shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles. When doing this exercise, lower your arm if you feel any pain in your shoulder.

  1. Bring your right arm across your chest.
  2. Place it in the crease of your left elbow or use your left hand to support your arm.
  3. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Do each side 3–5 times.

To deepen the stretch, lift your arm to shoulder height.

This exercise is a gentle way to loosen tension in your neck and shoulders.

  1. Lower your chin toward your chest. You’ll feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
  2. Gently tilt your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder.
  3. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Do each side 3–5 times.

To deepen this stretch:

  1. Place 1 hand on your shoulder and 1 hand above your ear to gently guide the movement.
  2. Lower your chin toward your chest. You’ll feel a stretch along the back of your neck.
  3. Gently tilt your head to the left to stretch your right shoulder.
  4. Hold this position for up to 1 minute.
  5. Repeat on the opposite side.
  6. Do each side 3–5 times.

This exercise promotes flexibility and range of motion in your shoulders.

  1. While standing, hold an exercise band, strap, or towel behind your back with both hands.
  2. Broaden across your chest as your move your shoulder blades toward each other.
  3. Lift your chin and look up toward the ceiling.
  4. Hold for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat 3–5 times.

To deepen the stretch, place your hands closer together along the towel or strap.

This exercise stretches your shoulder muscles. If the arm position is uncomfortable, do this exercise by holding opposite shoulders.

  1. While seated, extend your arms out to the sides.
  2. Cross your elbows in front of your body with your right arm on top.
  3. Bend your elbows, placing the backs of your forearms and hands together.
  4. Reach your right hand around to bring your palms together.
  5. Hold this position for 15 seconds.
  6. On an exhale, roll your spine as your draw your elbows in toward your chest.
  7. On an inhale, open your chest and lift your arms.
  8. Continue this movement for 1 minute.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.

This exercise stretches your shoulders and neck. Keep your hips facing forward during this exercise. Allow the twist to start in your lower back.

  1. Sit in a chair with your ankles directly under your knees.
  2. Twist your upper body to the right, bringing the back of your left hand to your thigh.
  3. Place your right hand down wherever it’s comfortable.
  4. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the left side.
  6. Do each side 3–5 times.

This exercise is good for warming up your shoulder joints and increasing flexibility.

  1. Stand with your left hand on the back of a chair.
  2. Allow your right hand to hang down.
  3. Circle your right hand 5 times in each direction.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side.
  5. Do this 2–3 times per day.

This stretch opens your chest and strengthens your shoulders.

  1. Stand in a doorway with your elbows and arms forming a 90-degree angle.
  2. Step your right foot forward as you press your palms into the sides of the door frame.
  3. Lean forward and engage your core. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat the stretch with your left foot forward.
  5. Do each side 2–3 times.

This inversion pose strengthens and stretches the muscles in your shoulders and back.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Press into your hands to lift your hips up toward the ceiling.
  2. Maintain a slight bend in your knees as you press your weight evenly into your hands and feet.
  3. Keeping your spine straight, bring your head toward your feet so that your shoulders are flexed overhead.
  4. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute.

This restorative pose helps relieve tension in your back, shoulders, and neck. Place a cushion under your forehead, chest, or legs for support.

  1. From Downward Dog Pose, bring your big toes together and your knees slightly wider than your hips.
  2. Sink your hips back onto your heels and extend your arms in front of you.
  3. Allow your chest to fall heavy toward the floor, relaxing your spine and shoulders.
  4. Stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes.

This pose relieves tightness in your chest, shoulders, and upper back. Place a cushion or block under your head or shoulder for support.

  1. Start on your hands and knees. Lift your right hand up toward the ceiling with your palm facing away from your body.
  2. Lower your arm to bring it under your chest and over to the left side of your body with your palm facing up.
  3. Activate your right shoulder and arm to avoid collapsing into this area.
  4. Keep your left hand on the floor for support, lift it toward the ceiling, or bring it around to the inside of your right thigh.
  5. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
  6. Relax in Child’s Pose before repeating this stretch on the left side.

In addition to shoulder exercises, you can try home remedies to ease pain and encourage healing.

Follow the RICE method by resting, icing, and compressing your shoulder. When possible, elevate your shoulder above heart level. You can also use a heating pad or take an epsom salt bath.

To ease pain, you may take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Or try natural pain relievers such as turmeric, willow bark, or cloves. Apply a menthol rub, arnica cream, or essential oil blend to the affected area a few times per day.

Regular massage and acupuncture treatments can help relieve pain and bring balance to your body. You can also try manipulative therapies such as chiropractic adjustments, osteopathy, or Rolfing.

In addition to doing these exercises, you can prevent shoulder pain by following a few simple tips and guidelines:

  • Practice good posture and avoid slouching or hunching over while sitting, standing, and doing your daily activities.
  • Pay attention to how you’re carrying your body throughout the day and make adjustments as necessary.
  • Get plenty of rest and take time off from any activity that causes pain.

Take care when you do activities that involve reaching for something overhead, carrying heavy objects, or bending forward. If you have to do these activities as part of your job, decide how you can move your body to minimize discomfort.

If you play sports that cause shoulder pain, make sure you’re using proper form and technique.

See a doctor or physical therapist if you are unable to move your shoulders or if your pain worsens or doesn’t improve after two weeks of treatment.

You should also see a doctor immediately if you have severe pain in both shoulders or both thighs or you have a fever.

To determine what’s causing the pain and the best treatment plan, a doctor may do an X-ray, ultrasound scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.

See a doctor immediately if you:

  • have pain in both shoulders
  • have pain in both thighs
  • have a fever or feel unwell

These could be signs of polymyalgia rheumatica, a condition that warrants prompt treatment.

Was this helpful?

While shoulder pain is common, it can be prevented and treated. Do these exercises on a regular basis to relieve and prevent shoulder pain.

You can also try home remedies to treat shoulder pain on your own. Continuing the exercises and treatments even after you feel better will help prevent the pain from coming back.

Talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program if you have any medical conditions that could be affected.