Moving your arm through normal ranges of motion, such as lifting your arm forward or reaching overhead, is often difficult if you suffer from shoulder pain, regardless of the cause. Stretching the connective tissues and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint on a regular basis may help alleviate the pain, allowing you to execute such movements more easily. Consult with a medical professional, however, before starting a stretching program for shoulder pain.
Performing arm circles gently stretches the structures surrounding your affected shoulder as you swing your arm in a circular motion. Stand behind a chair and lean forward, placing the hand of your non-injured arm on the back of the chair for support. Let your sore arm hang below your shoulder and make small circles, first clockwise and then counterclockwise, for 30 to 60 seconds at a time. Gradually increase the size of the circles as your pain decreases. You can also perform the exercise from an upright standing position with your arm extended in front of your chest or to the side.
Arm Crossover Stretch
The arm crossover stretch targets the middle fibers of the deltoid muscle, which act to abduct your upper arm, or move it sideways, away from your body. Stand with your non-affected shoulder close to a vertical bar, then reach across your chest with your injured arm and grasp the bar at chest height. Turn your body away from the bar until you feel a gentle stretch through your shoulder, then hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Hold the bar higher to emphasize the posterior fibers -- those on the back of your shoulder -- if that's where the pain is concentrated.
Arm Extension Stretch
Perform the arm extension stretch to help alleviate pain within the front of your shoulder. Brad Walker of The Stretching Institute also recommends performing the stretch if you suffer from frozen shoulder -- a painful condition that affects the shoulder joint capsule. Stand upright and reach both arms behind your lower back. Clasp your hands together and slowly lift both arms at the same time, keeping them as straight as possible. Stop when you feel light tension through your chest and shoulders, then hold for 10 to 30 seconds. You can also perform the stretch from a seated position by placing your hands on the floor behind your back, about shoulder-width apart, and sliding them backwards to extend your arms.
Hanging Shoulder Stretch
The hanging shoulder stretch targets the muscles lying behind your shoulder joints that facilitate arm extension ranges of motion, allowing you to extend your arms behind your back. Hang from a bar with your palms facing forward to perform the stretch. Flex your knees to keep your feet off the floor if necessary. Breathe deeply as you're hanging and try to release into the stretch slightly more with each exhalation. Along with stretching your shoulders, the exercise may help keep your back and spine healthy, according to Pavel Tsatsouline, author of "Relax Into Stretch."
- FamilyDoctor.org; Shoulder Pain; September 2000
- ExRx.net: Fixed Bar Side Deltoid Stretch
- "Basic Biomechanics"; Susan J. Hall; 2007
- The Stretching Institute; Shoulder Pain and Frozen Shoulder Treatment; Brad Walker; 2011
- "Relax Into Stretch"; Pavel Tsatsouline; 2001