It is the most common injury or area of weakness you hear when asking your students “Has anyone got any injuries or areas of tightness or pain they are working with?”
Here Amy Moffet ‘masseuse extraordinaire’, tells us some ways to help strengthen and stretch them out in between your regular classes and some simple ways of keeping the joint healthy.
There is a whole multitude of potential causes for tight shoulders, from impact or weight-bearing injuries to breathing conditions such as asthma. For the most part, clients I see in the treatment room come with postural imbalances that put pressure on the mechanics and soft tissues of the shoulder joint.
Our bodies take the shape of how to use them (or don’t use them!); hunched over laptops, carrying heavy rucksacks across town or dipping our heads forward to engage with our phone screens.
It’s difficult to give stretches that suit everybody as we’re all so different, but I find the following can be useful for pretty much everyone:
1- Little effort and feels great:
This is great for creating some space across the chest ad giving the shoulder muscles a break:
- Grab a bolster, foam roller or even a rolled-up yoga mat or towel will do.
- Lay your spine on the bolster from the sacrum all the way up the skull, if the bolster isn’t long enough then support your head with a cushion, just make sure your neck isn’t compressed.
- Have your knees bent with feet on the floor.
- Open the arms into a cactus shape and simply enjoy a few moments of doing nothing, using the breath to help expand the tissues across the chest while the back and shoulder muscles meltdown towards the floor.
- Once you’ve created some space you can bring some shoulder movement into the exercise. Circle the arms, as if hugging a tree, and imagine hugging the tree all the way up to the branches above your head, when you can’t maintain the tree-hug position anymore circle the arms down and round, back to the start position.
2- Neck and upper shoulder stretch for desk workers:
This is one you can do multiple times a day while at your desk.
- To stretch the right side of your neck and shoulder sit on a chair with both feet on the floor and your right hand placed under your pelvis – so you’re sitting on your hand. This will create a bit of traction for the stretch.
- Make sure the back of the pelvis, the back of the ribs and back of the head are all stacked nicely on top of one another.
- Take a breath in to grow the spine towards the ceiling and with the exhale imagine pouring the weight of your head out of your left ear. Take a few breaths here to help the tissues of the upper shoulder and neck release down the right side.
- To take it to the next level rotate your eye gaze down to your left hip and this will move the stretch to the back of the shoulder.
- Again, take your time here, use your breath to elongate the tissues and expand the space between your ear and shoulder.
- Repeat on the other side.
3 – Creating space between the shoulder blades:
You can start this stretch with some spine movement in the well-known cat-cow yoga pose before adding in some extra stretches to increase your range.
- Get yourself on all fours, you might need something soft for your knees to lean on and if you have carpal tunnel or pain in the wrists then I suggest rolling a towel and placing the palm of your hand on the edge of the towel, with the fingers resting on the floor, to take the pressure off the angle of the joint.
- You can start with a cat-cow pose – all you yogis will know this one – sending the tailbone down between the legs the spine will follow into an arch upwards as the head drops, opening the space between the shoulder blades and allow the neck to release and head hang heavy.
- To return, open out the sit bones wide, the spine will naturally follow, extending from the lumbar spine up the thoracic and shine the chest bone forward as the collarbones spread apart. be careful not to compress the neck, this is more about creating movement between the shoulder blades.
- To add some extra juice you can pick up your right hand, palm facing up and thread the arm between the left arm and leg
- Rest your right shoulder on the floor as you rotate through the rib cage, avoid sinking into the shoulder
- Take a few breaths to open the space between your scapulas even more before returning to all fours
- Repeat on the other side.