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  • Caroline Kelley

Stretches to Relieve Tight Shoulders

Updated: Aug 21, 2019

In just ten minutes these stretches will help release tight and sometime painful muscles in the upper back and shoulders. It's a great stress reducing sequence too! All you need is some wall space and a strap (a belt or dog leash works great too).


Please note: Some of these exercises may not be suitable for someone who is prone to shoulder dislocation. In these cases please check with your physical Therapist before practicing.


Begin Standing with your right side about a foot away from the wall, align your feet so your toes face straight forward and position your hips over your heels.


Inhale to reach your left arm out to the side and over to the wall. Crawl your fingers up the wall and gently move your hips away from the wall.


Stay in this position and breathe deeply into your outer lower ribs for five breaths.


This pose will stretch your waist, the muscles between your ribs and those that hunch the shoulders forwards.


To come out of the pose, exhale to draw your navel towards your spine, keep this action and inhale to come to standing upright.


Repeat on the other side.


It's common to find that one side is a deeper stretch than the other, to balance the muscles repeat the tighter side again for another five breaths.



Swing your right arm under your left and if possible bring your finger tips to your left palm.


Slide your shoulders down your back and reach your elbows forward and up.


Breathe deeply into your upper back for 5 breaths.


For a deeper stretch tuck your forehead down towards your arms.


When coming out of the pose, inhale the arms out and up towards the ceiling, then exhale swing your left arm under the right to repeat.


It's common to find that one arm on top is a deeper stretch than the other, to balance the muscles repeat the tighter version again for another five breaths.



This photo shows me half way through the exercise.


Begin holding the strap in front of your chest, with your arms wide and thumbs up.


Inhale reach forwards and up to the ceiling and exhale to reach behind your body and down.


The biggest part of the stretch will be when your arms are slightly lower than mine. This is an excellent chest opener and helps to release tight shoulders and neck.


Repeat 5 times, then stay in the biggest part of the stretch for five breaths.



Reach your right arm up towards the ceiling with your triceps facing forwards and the strap in hand, then bend your elbow so the strap dangles down your back.


Reach your left arm forwards, turn your thumb towards the floor and take your arm up your back.


Crawl your hands towards each other. Some bodies will find it easier to get the hands together and others will be farther apart than I am here.


Without lifting your chin, gently press your head back into your forearm and take five deep breaths into your lower outer ribs. Then repeat the stretch in the opposite direction.


You can do this sequence standing or seated, either way the exercise focuses on rotating the rib cage to loosen tension in the mid back. Notice that I'm only turning a small amount and the hips stay facing forwards.


Bring your arms in cactus position and relax your shoulders down your back.


Exhale to rotate your chest to the right and inhale to face forward, then exhale to rotate left and inhale to face forwards.


Repeat five times.


This exercise promotes a healthy posture, it strengthens weak spinal muscles and releases tense muscles.


Note: if you feel pulling in your lower back you're rotating too far.


Finish with your arms relaxed and eyes closed. Practice breathing into the lower side ribs and being present for ten deep yet relaxing breaths.


Your comments are always welcome and I love to receive requests. Enjoy!