Eleven Exercises that Can Relieve Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain may be caused by poor execution of certain movements, overexertion during training, or poor posture.
Eleven Exercises that Can Relieve Shoulder Pain
Gilberto Adaulfo Sánchez Abreu

Written and verified by the doctor Gilberto Adaulfo Sánchez Abreu.

Last update: 09 October, 2022

Spending a lot of time in front of a computer, sleeping on your side, or lifting weights are all causes of shoulder pain. This pain may even extend to your neck and back. We recommend these effective exercises in addition to applying heat and ice to decrease inflammation. Are you ready for notes?

Stretching routine to relieve shoulder pain

Daily exercises are vital to relieve shoulder pain and improve flexibility. Step one is just getting enough rest at night, and giving yourself breaks from the same positions during the day. You want to change up your body’s positioning every few hours at least. Additionally, you can increase your muscle strength and improve your posture with this routine.

  • The exercises should be gentle and controlled and done after warming up the area
  • Afterward, stretch the shoulder area to get the blood flowing; note that properly done movements will prevent injuries and pain

A good routine could consist of:

1. Warm up

The proper way to warm up is:

  • Firstly, rest your hand on the back of a chair
  • Take a step or two back so that your arm is completely extended; let your other arm hang normally
  • Make circular or swinging movements for two minutes
  • Switch arms and repeat

2. Upper shoulder stretching to relieve shoulder pain

  • Bring your right hand towards your left shoulder
  • With your left hand, take your right elbow and lift it as much as you can towards your face. Hold this position for a few seconds and return to your initial position
  • Repeat five times and then switch to the other arm
A person stretching their shoulder.
Shoulder pain can be relieved by exercising the upper body.

3. Lateral stretching

This stretch starts like the last one, but you apply pressure to the side. This way, your hand leaves your shoulder and your arm is lightly stretched.

Do five repetitions per side.

4. Posterior stretch

  • To do this stretch, extend your hand behind you and touch a door frame or the edge of a wall
  • Take a few steps forward so your arm is completely extended behind your body
  • Press for five seconds and relax
  • Finally, do five repetitions, and then switch to the other arm

5. Combined stretch

For this stretch, you’ll need an elastic band or a stretchy piece of fabric.

  • Hold one end with your right hand and bring your arm behind your head, your elbow will be bent
  • Then, move your left hand towards your waist and grab the other end of the band
  • Once you’re holding both ends, stretch your top arm toward the ceiling and the bottom one towards the ground
  • Pull like that for 30 seconds on each side; then, relax, and repeat five times
A woman stretching to relieve shoulder pain.

6. Laying down stretch

  • Firstly, lay down on a bed or mat with your legs straight
  • Hold your right wrist with your left hand and bring your arms up and back
  • Once you pass your face, stretch your right arm and try to hold for at least a few seconds.

7. Butterfly stretch

Laying down, put your hands on the back of your neck. Your elbows will be up. Open your arms out to the sides and try to make your elbows touch the floor.

These are just some of the stretches to relieve your shoulder pain. It’s important to keep in mind that you must also stretch after performing the routine, in order to activate the area.

Exercise and strength-building routine

It’s time for shoulder strengthening exercises when you’re done with the stretching. These practices are perfect for those who experience tendonitis or rotator cuff problems. This is also known as tennis shoulder or shoulder overuse syndrome, as noted by the specialists at MedlinePlus:

The rotator cuff is located in the shoulder area and is made up of muscles and tendons. Its function is to help the shoulder move and keep it stable. Rotator cuff problems are common and include tendonitis, bursitis and injuries such as tears.

1. Vertical push-ups

Since regular push-ups can be hard if your shoulders hurt, here is a gentler option that will help strengthen them.

  • Firtly, stand in front of a wall, far enough away that you can put your palms on the wall with your arms stretched out
  • Then, move your torso forward and lift your heels; your elbows will bend and your shoulders will go up
  • Then, hold for a few seconds and return to your initial position
  • Do ten repetitions

2. Shoulder raises

This exercise is also done standing in front of a wall.

  • Firtly, put your palms on the wall and step back until your arms are completely extended
  • Then, raise your arms a little at a time, without lifting your hands from the wall, as high as you can (your goal is to get your shoulders as high as your ears)
  • Lower your arms little by little and start over
  • Do five repetitions

3. Dumbbell exercises to relieve shoulder pain

You can do this exercise without weights at first and add weight as you get stronger.

  • For the first exercise, lay face down on a sofa, bed, or bench
  • Then, lift one arm up in the air
  • Take the dumbbell and lift your stretched-out arm up and back

The second one is similar but done in a seated position:

  • The arm holding the weight moves back until parallel with the floor
  • Do 10 repetitions per side
A woman doing exercises for shoulder pain.

4. Exercises using sticks to relieve shoulder pain

Sometimes sticks are helpful workout tools. You can use a broomstick or cane, for example.

  • Firstly, standing with your back straight and legs slightly apart, hold the stick with your hands at either end
  • Move your arms to each side and stretch as far as you can
  • You can do the same thing with your arms extended behind you (always holding the stick)
  • Another option is to form circles with the arms and the stick, bringing both over the head and then towards the abdomen
  • Repeat on one side and then on the other

Another effective exercise is to raise your arms above your head and move the cane to the sides.

Finally, we hope you’ve found these exercises useful, let us know if you do them!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Burkhead, W. Z., & Rockwood, C. A. (1992). Treatment of instability of the shoulder with an exercise program. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery – Series A. https://doi.org/10.2106/00004623-199274060-00010
  • Gross, A. R., Paquin, J. P., Dupont, G., Blanchette, S., Lalonde, P., Cristie, T., … Hoving, J. (2016). Exercises for mechanical neck disorders: A Cochrane review update. Manual Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.math.2016.04.005
  • Worsley, P., Warner, M., Mottram, S., Gadola, S., Veeger, H. E. J., Hermens, H., … Stokes, M. (2013). Motor control retraining exercises for shoulder impingement: Effects on function, muscle activation, and biomechanics in young adults. Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jse.2012.06.010

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.