We all rely heavily on our shoudlers to perform a big number of activities. The shoulder has a wide range of motion, which makes it the most mobile joint in your body, yet this flexibility also makes it very unstable and prone to injury, such as shoulder dislocation or separation.
In general, shoulder injury happens when the muscles and ligaments that hold the shoulder together are stretched beyond their normal limits or when you perform movements that put too much stress on the shoulder and cause tearing of the ligaments that hold the shoulder muscles attached to the bones.
Another contributing factor to shoulder problems is stiffness in the shoulder area, which increases with age, especially if you lack of physical activity. The shoulders can lose their flexibility and make you more vulnerable to injury when you decide to increase your level of activity. If you’ve been a couch potato for a long time and just recently decided that it’s time to hit the gym, your enthusiasm might be slightly greater than the condition of your body and its readiness to support strenuous workouts, and this is most true for the shoulder area.
In order to reduce pain and prevent injury, physiotherapists recommend performing shoulder exercises that will improve the health and form of your shoulders and enhance their performance. Regularly stretching your shoulder muscles loosens up the muscles, improves blood circulation and prevents painful muscle knots. If you often experience shoulder pain and stiffness, try these exercises to improve the health and flexibility of your shoulders:
1. Towel stretch
The condition called adhesive capsulitis, also known as frozen shoulder, is characterized by stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint, and can significantly reduce the mobility of your shoulders and arms, but it can be successfully treated by regularly performing range-of-motion exercises such as the towel stretch.
To perform this exercise, take a towel and hold it in your right hand. Raise the right arm over your head so that the towel hangs behind your back, then reach behind the back with the left hand and grab the bottom of the towel. Gently extend the right arm upwards, pulling the towel up, and move your left hand (that’s behind the back) across and up the back, following the movement of the towel. Once you feel a good stretch in the shoulder, stop the movement and hold the position for 10 seconds, then slowly lower the arms back to the original position and switch arms. Perform 5 reps with each arm.
2. „Y“ formation
This exercise is great for eliminating pain and stiffness in the shoulders.
To perform it, lie on your back, place your arms at both sides and bend the knees, then slowly extend the arms diagonally over your head until your body forms the letter „Y“, your thumbs touch the floor and you feel a decent stretch in the upper body. Hold it for 30 seconds, then slowly return to the original position and repeat it a few times. Keep the elbows straight all throughout the movement. Perform 2-4 reps.
This exercise forces your muscles to stretch and relax, thereby toning the muscles of the shoulders and releasing existing tension in the whole upper back area. To do it, stand up straight with the arms extended on both sides of the body and your feet at shoulder-width apart. Roll your shoulders behind you in a circular motion for 30 seconds, then change direction and start rolling them forward.
4. Shoulder extensor, adductor and retractor stretch
Stretches are the best way to reduce muscle tightness and increase flexibility, and this particular stretch targets many muscles in the shoulder and upper back area, including the deltoids, trapeziuses and rhomboids. To perform it, stand upright with feet shoulder-width apart inside a doorway, facing a doorjamb so that it’s in line with the right shoulder. Move the left arm across the chest and toward the right shoulder. While pointing the thumb down, grab the doorjamb and rotate your torso to the left until you get a decent stretch in the left shoulder. If possible, keep the elbow locked. Hold the position for 10 seconds, then return to the original position and perform the movement with the opposite arm.
Perform these exercises on a daily basis, especially as a way to warm up your shoulders before a regular workout. And if you have a desk job that requires you to sit for many hours, try to take short breaks every half an hour to stretch your whole body and enhance blood circulation. Also, do your best to keep the back straight and shoulders relaxed while sitting and avoid hunching. This can help you prevent developing chronic shoulder and back pain and increase your productivity as well!