woman doing reverse prayer to stretch shoulders

How to stretch your shoulders

03 Feb 2023

Have you noticed the muscles in your shoulders are feeling a little tight and uncomfortable? You’re probably in desperate need of doing a few stretches. There are many benefits to stretching out your shoulders when you’re feeling tense, from improving posture through to reducing the risk of muscle injury1.

Why might I have tight shoulders?

Feeling tight and tense around your shoulders can be down to a number of things, not least2:


It’s not uncommon for stress to cause tension in the neck, back and shoulders. That’s because you tend to tense up – often without realising – when you’re feeling worried or anxious about something.

An exercise injury

If you’re a regular gym-goer and you often do exercises to build up muscle in your back and shoulders, it’s important that you stretch them out properly to avoid damaging the muscle tissue.

Your posture

Having poor posture, whether from sitting down for long periods of time or through bad habits such as an unsupportive sleeping position, can have a major impact on your shoulders. If you’re currently working from home, you might start to notice your shoulders and back are achy. That’s probably because your chair isn’t comfortable enough for all day long use or hasn’t been adjusted properly.

How to stretch your shoulders

There are numerous easy exercises you can incorporate into your daily routine which will directly benefit your shoulders. Why not try:

Shoulder rolls

This type of stretch should flex most of the muscles in your shoulders. Practise it by:

  1. Standing or sitting up straight.
  2. Roll your shoulders forward and up towards your ears before rolling them back down towards your back.
  3. Repeat ten times and then reverse it so you’re rolling your shoulders up, forward and down.

Shoulder rotations

This stretch not only loosens tight shoulder muscles, but also promotes good posture3. Do it by:
  1. Standing against a wall with your back flat and your feet together. Your shoulder blades should be relaxed.
  2. Bring both arms out to your sides 90 degrees and then bend your elbows so your arms form an unfinished box shape in front of you.
  3. Keep your elbows still and turn your lower left arm down so the palm touches the wall and the lower right arm up so the back of the hand is against the wall.
  4. Bring your arms slowly back to the central position and switch sides.

Child’s pose

If you’re a yogi, you’ll undoubtedly recognise child’s pose from your routine. It gently stretches out the shoulders and is done by4:
  1. Kneeling down on the floor (preferably on an exercise mat for comfort).
  2. Spread your knees apart and make sure your toes are touching.
  3. Breathe in deeply and reach your arms above your head. As you exhale, stretch them all the way out in front of you until you touch the floor.
  4. If you can, flatten your palms on the ground and bring the elbows down.
  5. Shift your bottom back slightly and stay in that position. You should feel a gentle stretch along your shoulders and spine.

Reverse prayer

This is another yoga pose that’s great for stretching your shoulders if you’re particularly flexible5. Begin by:
  1. Standing up straight and making sure your feet are firmly planted on the floor.
  2. Bring your arms behind you and press the palms together. They should be resting about halfway up your spine.
  3. Stand still and enjoy the feeling of your shoulder blades opening up. If you can’t touch your palms, grasp opposite elbows instead.

Last updated: 29 April 2020

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324647#benefits
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324647#causes
  3. https://greatist.com/move/stretches-for-tight-shoulders#Shoulder-stretches
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324647#childs-pose
  5. https://greatist.com/move/stretches-for-tight-shoulders#Shoulder-stretches