Simple At-Home Shoulder Pain Exercises

Healthy senior couple holding each other's shoulders

Maintaining a strong and healthy upper body as we age is one of the keys to reducing inflammation and pain in our shoulder joints. But, as we get older, it can become difficult to do traditional upper body exercises which tend to rely heavily upon using weights and weight resistance to build up strength. At AROmotion, we believe that daily movement is one of the pillars to maintaining healthy joints as well as overall health and wellness. We also know that exercises have to be modified based on age, experience, and other health factors – which is why we are sharing these simple at-home shoulder pain exercises that can be modified based to fit your particular needs while reducing the risk of injury.

First, let’s get to know the anatomy of the shoulder courtesy of the Arthritis Foundation. The shoulder is made up of three bones: the scapula (shoulder blade), clavicle (collarbone), and humerus (upper arm bone). Two joints in the shoulder allow it to move: the acromioclavicular joint, where the highest point of the scapula (acromion) meets the clavicle, and the glenohumeral joint. The glenohumeral joint is the one most people think of as the shoulder joint. It is formed where a ball (head) at the top of the humerus fits into a shallow cuplike socket (glenoid) in the scapula, allowing a wide range of movement. The surfaces of the bones where the ball and socket meet are covered with smooth, elastic cartilage that absorbs shock and allows the joint to move easily.

The human shoulder

Your shoulders carry a lot of weight, both figuratively and literally, which is why keeping them strong and healthy over time is so important to your long-term wellness. That said, it’s also important to build up strength when starting to do shoulder exercises to help ease the pain so you don’t cause strain or damage. We love these simple at-home shoulder pain exercises because each one can be modified with different weights and the number of reps.

As with any new exercise routine, please consult with your doctor before getting started and do not push your body past its limits. Remember, you will build up strength and flexibility over time.

Warm Up with Shoulder Rolls

This simple movement will help warm up your muscles and shoulder joints and prepare for more challenging movements ahead. You can do this warm-up seated or standing, with or without hand weights. If using hand weights, we suggest starting as light as possible as you build up your strength. Here’s how to do it:

  • Place your feet hip-distance apart and firmly on the ground, whether you are standing or seated.
  • If using hand weights, hold them securely but without too tight of a grip that may become uncomfortable.
  • Roll your shoulders up towards your ears and take a deep breath in. Then, roll them back, feeling the stretch in your upper back, and exhale.
  • Do one set of 10, then take a break, and repeat if desired and/or able.

Up-Down Shoulder Lifts

This exercise combines traditional shoulder presses with alternating, lower impact movement so your muscles will not tire as quickly. This can also be done seated or standing, with or without hand weights.

  • If using weights, bring your hands up to your shoulders, then lift your arms straight up to the ceiling. Move slowly as you return your hands to your shoulders, taking care to breathe in and out during the movement.
  • Next, drop your arms down straight towards your side slowly, again taking note of your breath, and then move them back up to your shoulders.
  • Repeat the sequence 10-20 times based on your comfort level.

The Shoulder Row

This movement works the arms, shoulders, and upper back and can be done seated or standing, with or without hand weights.

  • Lean forward with a flat back, imagining that someone is pulling a string from your head towards the wall in front of you and from your back towards the wall behind you.
  • Stick your arms out straight ahead and slowly pull them back, keeping your elbows close to your body like you are rowing a boat. Pull back while taking a deep breath in until you can feel your shoulder blades moving closer together, being careful not to over-extend yourself.
  • Slowly move your arms back to your starting position while exhaling.
  • Repeat this movement 10-20 times depending on your comfort level.

Cross Over Shoulder Stretch

Now that you’ve given your shoulders a good workout, it’s time to show them some TLC with a nice, finishing stretch that should be done without hand weights.

  • Whether seated or standing, take a deep breath in and cross one arm over your chest, hooking it with the elbow crease of your opposite arm.
  • Breathe in and out while you feel the stretch and hold for 10-20 seconds.
  • Repeat the movement on the opposite side.
  • You can repeat the sequence 3-5 times or until you feel you’ve achieved a good cool-down stretch.

This simple, low-impact sequence is the perfect way to start a daily shoulder pain exercise routine. Over time, you should notice an increase in your shoulder strength and flexibility which can help decrease shoulder pain from normal, daily wear and tear. If you are experiencing shoulder pain that is not improving from exercises, you should talk with your doctor about your treatment options. Our Board-Certified Physicians are also here to help and can offer a  free consultation to see if you are a candidate for our non-surgical, FDA-approved procedure to treat knee, hip, and shoulder pain. Just fill out the form below and an  AROmotion team member will contact you.

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