Shoulder Exercises to Relieve Pain

Can a gentle shoulder exercise relieve pain? 

Your shoulders are among the most mobile and flexible joints in your body; able to move in many different directions. With your shoulders, you can reach, lift, push, pull and rotate your arm in circular motions. It’s your shoulder that lets you throw a perfect pitch, return a tennis serve and swing a golf club. Shoulder joints can be injured just like any other joint in your body, your shoulder joint can be injured. This can happen through direct impact from a fall or car accident, or through overuse and strain. While serious shoulder injuries typically require rest or complete immobility (and sometimes shoulder surgery), some types of shoulder pain can be relieved, at least partly, through gentle shoulder exercises.

Benefits of Shoulder Exercises

When it comes to preventing shoulder injury, there’s no doubt shoulder exercises can help. Not only can routine shoulder exercises strengthen the muscles that promote normal joint movement, but they can also improve flexibility and endurance, which means the shoulder will be less likely to experience the negative effects of strain and fatigue. When your shoulder is already injured, exercise works in a similar way to improve flexibility and function, and it also works to improve circulation, which in turn promotes healing.

But before you even think about starting any type of exercise routine, it’s important to know this: While gentle exercise might be helpful in relieving pain from some types of shoulder injuries, other injuries should not be subjected to exercise at all; in fact, depending on the injury you have, your shoulder might respond best to rest and even a period of complete immobility. That means it’s essential to have your shoulder pain evaluated in our office before you undertake any type of shoulder exercise. Once we find out what’s causing your pain, we can determine if therapeutic exercise is a wise idea or if another treatment could be a better choice for helping you find shoulder pain relief.

4 shoulder exercises to relieve shoulder pain

Shoulder Excercises

In general, shoulder pain caused by a direct impact injury, like a fall on an outstretched arm, typically won’t respond well to exercise — at least, not right away; however, as treatment progresses, exercise might be recommended as part of a physical therapy routine. Typically, exercise as a first-line therapy is reserved for shoulder pain caused by repetitive use or overuse — for instance, after a period of heavy lifting or to counteract the effects of “tech neck,” painful symptoms caused by spending hours hunched over a computer or a cellphone. In these cases (and once we’ve determined it’s OK to use your shoulder), these exercises can be very helpful for shoulder pain relief:

The pendulum

In this exercise, you’ll use your arm’s weight to gently stretch your shoulder. To perform the pendulum, stand straight, then lean over at the waist, supporting yourself with your uninjured arm. Let the arm with the injured shoulder hand straight down, completely relaxed. Then, begin moving your arm in circles — small at first, then widening. (Think of your hand as the end of the pendulum.) Reverse direction, and “draw circles” in the opposite direction. Repeat this gentle exercise several times each day.

Neck release

This is a simple exercise you can do any time of the day — even while you’re sitting at your desk or stuck in traffic. Start by sitting or standing up straight. Then, slowly bring your chin toward your chest until you feel a gentle stretch at the back of your neck. Now, lean your head to one side, then the other, holding each stretch for up to a minute. Repeat up to five times.

Arm-across-your-chest stretch

Begin by standing straight with your arms hanging down at your sides. Extend the injured arm outward in front of you until the hand is level with your waist. Then raise your uninjured arm and place that hand behind your elbow, cupping it. Use your hand to gently pull your injured arm across your chest, holding the stretch for up to 30 seconds before releasing it. If you feel pain, relax the stretch a bit until the pain subsides. Repeat the stretch up to five times.

Torso twist

You can do this exercise at your desk, too. Sit up straight with your knees together. Twist your body to the right, and place your left hand on your right thigh. Then, gently pull to extend the stretch. Hold for about 15 seconds, then repeat, twisting to the other side. Try to do each side up to five times.

Get help for your shoulder pain

Millions of people seek treatment to relieve shoulder pain every year, according to data from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, and most times, the issues that cause pain can be treated conservatively, without surgical intervention. As with any joint problem, seeking treatment early — ideally, at the first sign of pain — is important. Doing so can prevent more serious problems that can result in a permanent loss of movement and function. If you’re having shoulder pain, contact the office and schedule an appointment with Dr. Van Thiel today.


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