Life's stresses can take their tolls on your shoulders, yet they are one of the most neglected parts of the body. You use your shoulders for so many different tasks, making them susceptible to injury, pain and tension. Increasing flexibility in your shoulders can provide a number of benefits, including helping you perform everyday chores and activities with greater ease.
Importance of Shoulder Flexibility
You probably don't give your shoulders much thought until a problem arises. Yet an adequate range of motion in your shoulders is important for almost every daily activity involving reaching, lifting, standing and sitting. Repetitive tasks can take their toll on your shoulders over time, so even typing at your desk all day can cause serious limitations in your shoulder's range of motion. If you can't sit comfortably because of shoulder pain and tension, then the other muscles that support your posture will try to compensate, leading to further pain in your back and neck and an increased chance of injury. Stretching and exercising your shoulders can help increase shoulder flexibility, which can increase your strength and reduce the load your other muscles have to bear.
Shoulder stretches can improve shoulder flexibility and range of motion -- and you can perform many types of shoulder stretches during the day, at work or any time shoulder pain and tension strikes. However, it's best to perform shoulder stretches when your muscles are already warm, so run in place or do a few jumping jacks before you stretch. Or, stretch at the end of your workout, when your muscles are already warm. According to iSport Fitness, stretching your shoulders after your workout helps remove lactic acid from your muscles and further increase flexibility and range of motion. Some shoulder stretches to try include the doorframe stretch, the ear-to-shoulder stretch and the forward reach.
Flexibility Exercise Programs
Lots of women have developed an interest in alternative and Eastern exercises, such as yoga, tai chi and qigong, and with just cause. These exercises focus on stretching and lengthening your muscles and increasing overall flexibility. So by starting a yoga, tai chi or qigong practice, you can help increase flexibility not just in your shoulders, but in your entire body. Incorporate specific yoga shoulder exercises, such as the Locust pose or the Kun qigong exercise, into your program to help increase the range of motion in your shoulders and open your chest, heart and back.
Range of Motion Exercises
An adequate range of motion means that your shoulders will more easily move without stiffness or pain. Certain shoulder exercises focus specifically on improving your range of motion, which also helps increase flexibility in your shoulder joint. iSport suggests exercises like the shoulder shrug and release, shoulder circles or the pendulum, a controlled exercise that involves bending forward and allowing your upper body to hang loosely as you sway and swing your shoulders and arms, to help your shoulders move to their fullest extent.
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.