Pain Free Working

15 Desk Exercises To Relieve Shoulder Pain

Reaching for an object, holding an item up or at an angle, swinging a club, carrying bags, pushing a door open — these actions are all possible thanks to our shoulders. Having flexible shoulder joints contribute to our body’s overall strength and decrease the load that the bones, ligaments, and joints have to bear. With all the activity that we do with our shoulders, it’s not a surprise that we all experience some degree of shoulder discomfort in our life.

According to research, about 18 to 26 percent of adults experience shoulder pain or tightness. If left untreated, it can become a chronic health issue that can prohibit us from doing everyday activities. Fortunately, shoulder pain and injury can be treated, especially if caught early. We rounded up a couple of strengthening exercises that can help relieve shoulder pain and reduce its occurrence in the future. Have a look! 

Should I Do Shoulder Exercises If It Hurts?

A lot of shoulder pain and aches can be resolved by doing exercises. It’s important to make sure that you start slowly when doing them, and that you listen to your body. Aside from stretching exercises that can help improve your muscles, you should also rest the affected arm or affected shoulder and ice it. 

If the pain is starting to affect your daily life to the point that you’re struggling or if it isn’t gone within two weeks of resting, icing, and stretching, you might want to seek the advice of a medical professional. A doctor or specialist will be able to know the root cause of the problem and you’ll receive proper medical treatment.

Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Doing exercises three to six times per week can help relieve shoulder pain. Start slow with a 5 to 10-minute routine and gradually increase the duration as you get stronger and more flexible. When you do these exercises, focus on relaxing and releasing the tension in your shoulders and anywhere else where you may feel muscle tightness. 

Do remember that you should only stretch to the degree that is comfortable for you. Never push yourself beyond your limits and discontinue the exercises if you experience pain. With that in mind, try out the following exercises that can help relieve shoulder pain! 

Neck Release

Sit up straight in your chair. Slowly tilt your chin toward the chest until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your neck. Lean your head toward the left to stretch your right shoulder, and conversely lean to the right to stretch the left shoulder. Hold your stretch for a minute on each side. Breathe deeply to help yourself relax and maximize the stretch.

Across-the-Arm Stretch

This exercise stretches your shoulder joint and the surrounding muscles, increasing their flexibility. Bring your right arm across your chest as a starting position. Next, place that arm in the crease of your left elbow or use your left hand to support your arm. Hold the position for 30 seconds up to a minute if you can. Repeat with your left arm, and do each side 3 to 5 times. If you want to deepen the stretch, you can lift your arm to shoulder height.

Arm Circles

Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Raise your arms and extend them to the side, creating a T shape with your body. Make small circular motions with your arms. Repeat the exercise for 10 to 15 seconds, and then switch the direction of rotation. 

Here’s another way to do arm circles using one arm at a time. Place one arm against the back of a chair while your other arm hangs straight down. Slowly rotate your arm clockwise, drawing a circle with your hand and occasionally changing direction. Gradually increase the size of the circle. Repeat on the opposite side.

Triceps Stretch

Reach your arm straight up. Next, keep your elbow in place, bend your arm, and reach your hand down behind your back. With your other hand, apply gentle pressure to the bent elbow. You’ll feel a stretch at the back of your upper arm and shoulder. Hold about 6 seconds. Repeat 2 to 4 times with each arm.

Shoulder Blade Squeeze

Sit or stand tall with your arms at your sides. Keep your shoulders relaxed. And then, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 6 seconds. Relax, and repeat 8 to 12 times.

Seated Twist

In this exercise, it’s important to keep your hips facing forward to allow the twist to start in your lower back. Start by sitting in a chair with your ankles directly under your knees. Next, twist your upper body to the right, bringing the back of your left hand to your thigh. Place your right hand down wherever it’s comfortable. Hold the pose for up to 30 seconds, and then repeat on the left side. Do each side 3 to 5 times.

Chest Expansion

This exercise helps increase flexibility and range of motion in the shoulders. You’ll need a towel or an exercise band to do this stretch. First, stand and hold the band or towel behind your back with both hands. Next, broaden across your chest as you move the scapula toward each other. Gently lift your chin and look up toward the ceiling. Hold for up to 30 seconds, and repeat 3 to 5 times.

Eagle Arms Spinal Rolls

Doing this exercise stretches not only your shoulder muscles but your upper body as well. Sit on a chair and extend your arms out to the sides; this is your starting position. Next, cross your elbows in front of your body with your right arm on top. Bend your elbows and place the backs of your right forearm behind the left, and put your hands together. Reach your right hand around to bring your palms together. Hold this position for 15 seconds.

On an exhale, roll your spine as you draw your elbows in toward your chest. Inhale, open your chest, and lift your arms. Continue the movement for 1 minute, and then repeat on the opposite side. If you find the arm position in this exercise to be uncomfortable, you can do this by holding opposite shoulders instead.

Doorway Shoulder Stretch

You can relieve rotator cuff pain with this stretch. Stand in a doorway with your elbows and arms forming a 90-degree angle. Then, step your right foot forward as you press your palms into the sides of the door frame. Next, lean forward and engage your core. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your left foot forward. Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side. 

External Rotation

If you’re experiencing frozen shoulder syndrome, this is an exercise that you try out. It is done best using a resistance band or a towel. To start, hold the light resistance band or towel in both hands. Keep both arms at the sides of the body, and then bend them at the elbow.

Keep one arm bent at 90 degrees while rotating the other away from your body. Hold the pose for 5 seconds and then slowly return the arm toward your body. Repeat the exercise for two sets, with each set consisting of 12 to 15 reps.

Wall Slide

Stand facing a wall with your arms positioned at right angles out in front. Your thumb should be facing away from the wall while your forearms should be aligned with the wall. Keep your shoulder blades back and gently squeeze the muscles together in this area. Slowly raise both arms upwards. Maintain the shoulder blade starting position as much as you can. Slowly lower your arms, returning to the initial position. Repeat 2 to 3 times. 

Reverse Fly

This exercise works the posterior deltoid muscles and also helps relieve rotator cuff pain. You’ll need a pair of dumbbells, water bottles, or a resistance band to do this. First, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hinge forward at the hips and let your arms hang straight down.

With your palms facing inward, raise both arms out to the sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower the arms and return to the initial position. Repeat the exercise for two sets, with each set consisting of 12 to 15 reps.

Yoga Exercises for Shoulder Pain

If you have your own office or a spacious workstation, you can take your shoulder stretches a notch further by doing yoga poses. They can help relieve pain and tension that’s accumulated in your muscles. Try them out!

Downward Dog Pose

This inversion pose strengthens the muscles in your shoulders and back. Start on your hands and knees, and press into your hands to lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Maintain a slight bend in your knees as your press your weight evenly into your hands and feet. Keeping your spine straight, bring your head toward your feet with your shoulders flexed overhead. Hold the pose for up to 1 minute.

Child’s Pose

Doing this restorative pose can help relieve tension in your back, shoulders, and neck. For support, you can place a cushion under your forehead, chest, or legs. Start on your hands and knees, bringing your toes together and positioning your knees slightly wider than your hips. Next, sink your hips back onto your heels and extend your arms in front of you. Let your chest fall heavy toward the floor. Relax your spine and shoulders while breathing deeply. You can stay in this post for up to 5 minutes. 

Thread the Needle

This yoga pose relieves tightness in your chest, shoulder, and upper back. You can use a cushion or a yoga block under your head or shoulder for support. Start on your hands and knees, and lift your right hand up toward the ceiling with your palm facing away from your body. Next, lower your arm, bringing it under your chest and over to the left side of your body. Make sure your palm is facing up. Activate your right shoulder and arm to avoid collapsing into this area.

Keep your left hand on the floor for support. You can lift it toward the ceiling or bring it around the inside of your right thigh. Hold this position for up to 30 seconds. Slowly move out of the pose, relax for a couple of breaths, and then repeat this stretch on the left side.

Final Note

Our shoulders take a lot in our everyday activities. It’s not a surprise that we may experience shoulder aches and pains from time to time. Doing shoulder exercises can strengthen the muscles and help relieve pain. If the pain worsens or if you’re already experiencing severe pain, it’s best to seek the advice of a physical therapist and undergo manual therapy to treat your condition.

Tricia Montano

Tricia founded Pain Free Working in 2019 due to suffering from degenerative disc disease in her L5-S1 from working an office job for the past 18 years. She and her team strive on finding and reviewing the best office equipment to help fellow pain sufferers find relief and to enable people like her to do their jobs comfortably.