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Tight Shoulders: Try these 3 easy stretches

Tight deltoids can develop for various reasons. They are a common sign of overuse, which often occurs within 24-72 hours of an intense arm/shoulder workout, especially if you skipped your warmup and/or didn’t get enough sleep to allow the muscles to repair. While many tend to overlook tight muscles as a mere inconvenience, there are risks in doing so.

Issues like insect bites, stings, and infection can cause tightness in the impacted area, so, if you’ve recently spent some time outdoors, it’s a good idea to check for areas of redness or other evidence you may have been bitten or stung.

Once this is ruled out, there are two primary causes for tight deltoids that fall on opposite ends of the physical activity spectrum.

Intensive Use vs. Inactivity

Intensive use as well as inactivity can both lead to muscle tightness, and you know if you fall into either category. When ignored, each situation presents potential negative outcomes, especially if the tightness becomes chronic. Overused muscles can become injured or damaged if you don’t give them proper attention while underused deltoid tightness can lead to poor posture, aches, pains, and an overall lower quality of life.

In each case, stretching your delts can go a long way in reducing tightness. Athletes, especially those who rely heavily on deltoids like swimmers and baseball players, stand to experience improved performance and reduced chances of serious injury. Sedentary folks can improve posture and reduce soreness common when transitioning in and out of a reclined position. In either case, stretching allows the benefits of an increased range of motion, higher energy levels during the day, and better sleep at night.

Three Stretches for Tight Deltoids

1.   Neck Stretch for Top of Shoulders

  1. Standing or seated, raise your right hand, and reach it over the head to the left ear.
  2. Gently pull your head so the right ear gets closer to the right shoulder.
  3. Stretch the left arm out at a 45 degree angle from the body to accentuate the stretch, and hold for 20-30 seconds.
  4. Gently tilt the head toward the ceiling, and hold for 20-30 seconds.
  5. Gently tilt the head toward the floor, and hold for 20-30 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

2.   Thoracic Spine Stretch for Improved Mobility

  1. Lie flat on the ground or mat with arms outstretched laterally, palms on the floor.
  2. Bend knees with feet flat on the floor and legs together.
  3. Keeping knees bent and legs together, gently move legs to the left until they are on the ground making sure the right shoulder blade stays flat on the floor. This process can take as long as necessary.
  4. Turn your head to face the right arm.
  5. Once position is established, reach the left arm as close to the right arm as possible, and slowly return the left arm to starting position. Stay mindful of the right shoulder as it should remain on the floor.
  6. Repeat several times before switching the stretch to the other side.

3.   Ragdoll for Maximum Tension Release

  1. Standing with feet hip-width apart and a slight bend in the knees, raise arms overhead, and use each hand to grab the opposite elbow.
  2. Gently fold forward, pointing the crown of your head directly toward the floor.
  3. Imagine a force is pulling your elbows into the floor, and work with that force.
  4. Sit in the pose for at least 60 seconds, allowing yourself to sink deeper into the forward fold every ten seconds.


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