An ache in your neck or shoulder can put you in a bad mood for the day. No one wants to feel pain in their neck when they turn to ask their co-worker a question. Feeling shoulder pain when you reach up to clean the windows in your house can make you want to throw away your entire chore list. But the good news is that there are stretches that can help.
Neck and shoulder pain can impact your quality of life by making it difficult to carry out your daily routines. With the proper stretches, you can alleviate that pain so that you can get back to your physical activities. But what are the most effective stretches for neck and shoulder pain? That’s what we’re here to explore.
We’re going to talk about the basics of neck and shoulder pain, the benefits of physical therapy stretches for the pain, and a few stretches that a physical therapist may recommend.
The basics of neck and shoulder pain
Both neck and shoulder pain are incredibly common and affect millions of people around the world each year. Neck pain has a general population lifetime prevalence rate of up to 70%. Shoulder pain is close behind, with a lifetime prevalence rate up to 66.7%.
Neck and shoulder pain can stem from injuries or they can be symptoms of a medical condition. They are often grouped together because there are many problems that can result in pain in both areas. There are nerves in your neck that branch out to your shoulders, so when pain or irritation is felt in the neck, it often impacts the shoulders as well.
Here are some potential causes of neck and shoulder pain:
- Muscle or tendon strain.
- Ligament sprain.
- Poor posture.
- Rotator cuff tear.
Neck and shoulder pain is often associated with other symptoms, including stiff muscles and reduced joint mobility.
The benefits of physical therapy stretches for neck and shoulder pain
If you’re feeling persistent or worsening pain in your neck and shoulders, one of the best courses of action for treatment is stretches. And the safest and most effective way to perform those stretches is with guidance from a physical therapist.
A physical therapist can walk you through targeted stretches that help alleviate the pain while improving the strength, flexibility and range of motion of the affected area.
Here are some benefits of learning neck and shoulder pain stretches from a physical therapist:
- Reduced pain and inflammation.
- Accelerated recovery time.
- Increased strength and flexibility.
- Improved mobility and function.
- Reduced risk of future injury or pain.
5 stretches to help alleviate neck and shoulder pain
One of the most effective ways that a physical therapist can treat your neck and shoulder pain is by guiding you through therapeutic stretches. By stretching your neck and shoulder muscles, you’re lengthening them to help release the tension and improve the areas’ overall function.
A physical therapist will determine which exercises will be the most beneficial for your pain based on the area, cause and severity. They will also instruct you on how long to hold each stretch and how many times it should be repeated.
Here are five stretches for neck and shoulder pain:
- Cross shoulder stretch — Take one arm and cross it over your body while using your free hand to grab the elbow and hold it against your chest. Hold your arm in the position for 10 seconds before switching to the opposite side. Repeat the stretch as directed by your physical therapist.
- Wing span stretch — Raise one arm and then bend at the elbow so that it’s facing the ceiling while your hand is touching your back. Reach behind your back with your other arm so that your elbow is facing the floor and your hands are trying to meet in the middle of your back. Hold for 30 seconds before switching to the other side. Repeat as directed by your therapist.
- Doorway stretch — Place your elbows against a door frame so that your arms are at a 90-degree angle. Press your palm against the frame as you step forward with your right foot, slightly bending your knee until you feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds before switching to the other foot. Repeat as directed by your therapist.
- Neck release — Lower your chin until it’s resting on your chest; then gently tilt your head to the left to stretch the right shoulder. Be sure to keep your chin down and resting against your chest as much as possible. Hold the stretch for up to one minute. Switch over to the opposite side and repeat as directed by your therapist.
- Seated twist — Sit in a chair with your feet planted on the floor in front of you. Bring your right hand over to your left thigh, twisting your body to the left. Hold this stretch for up to 30 seconds before returning to rest position and alternating to the opposite side. Repeat as directed by your therapist.
Lattimore PT can guide you through stretches for neck and shoulder pain
One of the best ways to alleviate your neck and shoulder pain is by stretching the affected muscles to decrease the tension. But it’s not always easy to determine which stretches are the safest and most effective for your pain. That’s why Lattimore PT can walk you through stretches to help you reduce your pain and return to your daily routines.