5 Easy Exercises to Relieve Basic Shoulder Pain

Shoulder aches and pains are a common complaint for adults, even for those who aren’t engaged in strenuous lifting or regular athletics. As your most mobile joint, the shoulder is made up of an intricate network of muscles, ligaments and tendons all working together to deliver both mobility and stability. Without the hard work of your shoulder, you wouldn’t be able to throw a frisbee to your dog, scratch your back, or reach for that item on the top of your closet.

That’s why it’s so frustrating when shoulder pain appears, sometimes out of nowhere. We don’t realize it, but pain in the shoulder often stems from our sedentary work life, when prolonged sitting behind a computer and craning our necks to talk on the phone places our shoulder muscles in unnatural positions for prolonged periods of time. Basic everyday activities such as yardwork and laundry can lead result in problems over time.

But there is good news. If your shoulder pain is minimal to moderate, and it hasn’t been going on for more than a few weeks, you have a good chance of improving it through the following gentle exercises. These exercises are quick and easy to perform, don’t require a clinician or special equipment, and they can be highly effective at reducing pain and tension in your shoulder muscles. Perform them a few times a day at work or home for about a month and it’s likely you’ll see improvement in your pain.

If the pain persists, then it’s time to see a physician, or go directly to a physical therapist (PT).  A PT can zero in on the exact area of your pain and develop a treatment plan for improvement. Remember, direct access laws enable you to schedule a visit with a PT without going to a physician first.

1. Shoulder pendulum


2. Shoulder blade pinch back


3. Hands slide on leg


4. Overhead stretch


5. Side-lying rotation


Bryce Gaunt, PT, SCS, is co-editor of and a primary contributor to the reference book A Systematic Approach to Shoulder Rehabilitation. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Shoulder and Elbow Therapists and became a Board Certified Clinical Specialist in Sports Physical Therapy (SCS) in 1998.

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