Most of us sit hunched over over a computer at our desk for 9 hours a day, or we end up rounded forward staring down at our phones as we text away. The point is, most of us spend way too much time in flexion, aka hunched over. All of this flexion leads to poor posture and can cause shoulder pain.
Since we are constantly rounded over, generally our chest muscles become tight, the big muscles of our back become inactive, and the small muscles of our shoulders become overworked. Heck, even our forearms can become tight from all of the flexion, leading to wrist, elbow and even shoulder pain!
Basically, when muscles become tight and other muscles become underactive, we start to compensate, aka we move improperly because our bodies take the path of least resistance and we overuse muscles that really shouldn’t be working that hard!
Here are 3 stretches, and even an activate move, you can easily do while at work to prevent and alleviate shoulder pain!
Standing Chest Stretch
Stretching out your chest is important if you want to improve your posture and prevent the small muscles of your shoulder from becoming over worked. Even if you have neck or upper back pain, it may be because your chest is tight and pulling everything forward.
To do the Standing Chest Stretch, you can use a doorway, wall or pole. Place one hand back on the wall or doorway and walk past it, turning away from the hand on the wall or door. As you rotate open and away from your hand, relax and breathe, feeling a nice stretch in your chest and shoulder. Make sure you don’t shrug and even relax your head toward the opposite shoulder.
Hold the stretch for at least 15-30 seconds each side.
This is a great stretch to do any time you walk through a doorway (even if you don’t do a long hold)!
Scapular Wall Hold
Activating your back as you open up your chest is key because if you only stretch, you won't actually get the correct muscles working. This happens because after you stretch, you go back to sitting in constant flexion, which only pulls everything back forward. That is why activation and moves like the Scapular Wall Hold are so important.
To do the Scapular Wall Hold, stand with your back to the wall and your elbows bent in by your side. You can walk your feet out further from the wall to make the move harder, but really focus on feeling it between your shoulder blades no matter how far you walk out.
Drive your elbows back into the wall and press your chest out and open toward the ceiling. Only your elbows should touch as you lean back and press your chest out. Draw your shoulder blades down and back and make sure to drive your chest out and open toward the ceiling. Think about driving your elbows back into the wall but also down toward your hips. You want to pretend like you are doing a row, but instead of rowing a weight in, you are pressing the wall away with your elbows. Do not shrug as you hold, and feel your back working.
Wrist Extension Stretch
It may seem strange to you that a wrist stretch is key to preventing shoulder pain, but it is. Immobility at your wrist can mean compensation and injury all the way up your arm to your shoulder. That is why it is important that you stretch your wrists after typing and gripping all day!
You can do this kneeling on the ground or seated at your desk. To do the Wrist Extension Stretch, place your hands down on the ground or up on your desk in front of you. Place your palms down and turn your fingertips back toward your body, rotating your fingers out and then back.
Then rock back and feel the inside of your forearm stretch. Keep the heels of your palms down on the ground as you rock back. Come back out of the stretch then rock back again, stretching down the inside of your forearms.
Using these three moves daily is a great way to start reversing the constant flexion. Adding foam rolling and even more activation moves can help you prevent shoulder pain from ever occurring!
For more exercises to help you prevent and alleviate shoulder aches and pains, click here.
Cori is the owner of Redefining Strength, a functional training facility in Orange County, California focused on helping each client find their strong. She started training and writing a fitness blog in 2011 because she wanted to empower people through diet and exercise so that they can lead healthier, happier lives.