13 Great Stretches for Shoulder Problems

Keep Calm and StretchI’m so exited about sharing these different techniques with you.

They have helped me overcome a condition in my left shoulder, that I’ve been having problems getting rid of.

It’s not a frozen shoulder, because I’m able to lift my arm easily above my head. But it could look like it’s a combination of forward head posture and some kind of trauma.

Shoulder problems

I’ve been having some problems with my left shoulder lately.

Symptoms:  My neck and shoulder is in pain whenever I turn my head to either side.

And it’s not only a problem when I’m awake – it’s impacting my sleep as well.

In the past this kind of situation kinda subsided by itself over a week or so with simple stretches and self-massage, but this time it’s going in the wrong direction – it’s getting worse and worse.

Physical therapy helped a bit, as I did have some relief after two sessions of Body SDS massage, but the situation worsened faster than I could schedule new appointments.

Then, a few weeks ago, I really messed up as I went to the KMD Ironman 2014 in Copenhagen to shoot some pictures of a friend of mine.

I basically ended up walking around Copenhagen for the 4 and a half hours the Marathon part lasted – plus an hour getting to and from the run route.

And I did it carrying my camera in a sling bag.

Combined weight of my camera body, my lens and the bag: 3 kg (6.6 lbs)

Bad idea ! :-(

The search is on

I knew that my usual regiment of massage and stretches would never get to the bottom of this, so I decided to look online for some additional neck and shoulder exercises I could perform on myself with little or no equipment.

I found quite a few different routines and approaches, but decided to stick with a limited number of exercises.

I faced a few challenges when searching for useful videos.

Because should I search for Shoulder, Neck or Upper back problems?

I was in no position to pinpoint the exact source of my problems, so I ended up searching for all of them.

But I also discovered that some videos only refer to specific muscles, tendons and ligaments – and not to regions of my body.

So I expanded my search to include Trapezius, Scalenes, Pectoralis Major/Minor, Pecs, SCM (Sternocleidomastoid), Rotator cuffs, Teres Major/Minor, Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus and Subscapularis.

The videos

What I ended up with was a large collection of videos covering different types of stretching.

I cut the list down to a manageable size by removing duplicates or nearly identical methods – leaving behind the videos describing and demonstrating the technique the best.

Some of these instructional videos contain several different stretches so I’ve broken them up so that it’s clear which muscles each individual stretch effects.


  • Position: Lying on back
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Increase space between C5 and C6
  • Notes: Really seemed to “open up” some of the tenseness in my entire neck/back area. The C4-C5 stretch was also good.

Big Bang Neck Stretch, Upper Cross Syndrome and Forward Head Posture – First stretch

  • Position: Sitting
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Stretches Levator Scapulae & Upper Trapezius
  • Notes: Anchoring the shoulder by grabbing the seat of the chair works really well. Dan Hellman from Hellman Holistic Health who did this and the next demonstration also has a nice video about ELDOA (the type of stretch in the first video)

Big Bang Neck Stretch, Upper Cross Syndrome and Forward Head Posture – Second stretch

  • Position: Sitting
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Stretches SCM & Scalenes
  • Notes: Same as previous stretch

Self-massage for frozen shoulder / shoulder pain

  • Position: Upright
  • Tools: None
  • Effects: Stretches Teres Major & Teres Minor (from the looks of it)
  • Notes: This proved to be surprisingly useful in generally loosening up my shoulder area

Get Rid of Shoulder and Scapulae Pain by Flossing the Spinal Accessory Nerve

Pectoralis Major & Minor Tissue Work

  • Position: Standing
  • Tools: Softball, Lacrosse ball or tennis ball & doorway
  • Effect: Stretches Pectoralis Major & Pectoralis Minor
  • Notes: Tight pecs put extra strain on the muscles on the back of your neck/shoulder, so loosening them up is a good idea even if they don’t seem to be part of the problem

Rotator Cuff Stretching

  • Position: Upright
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Stretching inferior capsule
  • Notes: Simple stretch. First few times I did these I could feel pain in my lower back

Rotator Cuff Stretching – Second stretch

  • Position: Upright
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Stretching posterior capsule
  • Notes: Simple stretch

Rotator Cuff Stretches – First stretches

  • Position: Standing
  • Tools: None & broomstick
  • Effect: Stretches Infraspinatus & Teres Minor
  • Notes: This and the next broomstick stretch felt really effective

Rotator Cuff Stretches – Second stretches

  • Position: Standing
  • Tools: Broomstick & doorway
  • Effect: Stretches Subscapularis
  • Notes: The broomstick really allows a solid impact with little work.

Rotator Cuff Stretches – Third stretch

  • Position: Standing
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Stretches Supraspinatus
  • Notes: Easy stretch

The BEST Internal Rotator and shoulder stretch

  • Position: Lying on back
  • Tools: None
  • Effect: Stretches Infraspinatus, Supraspinatus & Teres Minor (I think)
  • Notes: These stretches really revealed to me that my right shoulder and upper arm really lacks mobility

Weighted Shoulder Dislocation

  • Position: Standing
  • Tools: Broomstick (or resistance band or towel)
  • Effect: Stretches Rotator Cuff muscles
  • Notes: Using a broomstick is the best way to spot when your arm “cheats” by briefly flexing to get past the tight spot – and you can load it with weight once you’re injury free to build up strength

How much and how often?

Some, not all, of the videos have recommendations for sets, reps and duration.

So there’s not really a fixed plan on how to do these.

My approach has been this:

  • Do the ones lying down in bed in the morning and at night
  • Do the broomstick, balls and doorway ones twice a day
  • Do the other stretches throughout the day
  • Remember to stretch your good side as well