Stretching regularly doesn’t need to be difficult or even require time set aside each day. We’ve detailed here a super simple shoulder rolls stretch which can be done throughout the day, even sitting in your chair if need be (although we’d always recommend making sure you get up from your desk periodically we understand the pressures of work don’t always make it easy to do so!)
To keep the shoulders in optimal health we should really be taking them through their full range regularly. The shoulder joint is super mobile and designed so that we can move our arms in so many different directions and perform so many different tasks. During the course of an average day many of us wouldn’t move our arms far from the side of the body more than about 30 degrees and yet the shoulder joint should be so much more capable than this. Without regular movement, stretching and strengthening, the muscles surrounding the shoulder joint can become weak, tight or even over stretched. All these can cause dysfunction and eventually lead to pain and loss of range.
What is the shoulder joint?
Shoulder actually isn’t an anatomical word. As remedial massage therapists we tend to talk about the shoulder girdle, the glenohumeral joint and the associated bones and muscles. Whilst you don’t need an in-depth knowledge of anatomy to be able to move your shoulders and arms well, it is handy to know that your scapula (shoulder blade) is fully moveable and not stuck in place or attached to your back. This helps to create even more movement and range for our arms.
Moving the shoulder blades
Try squeezing your shoulder blades together or watch someone else do it and see just how far they can move. They should be able to pinch together! We call this retraction. Now stretch your arms forward and reach as far as you can. Feel how the shoulder blades move apart from one another. We call this protraction. You might also shrug your shoulders up to your ears and see how much they can go up too. This is elevation and returning them back from being shrugged is depression. Doing these movements facing a mirror you will also see how much movement there is at your collar bone too where it joins the sternum (breastbone). This is handy to think about whilst performing our shoulder roll exercise and should help you to move more freely throughout the movement.
This is a super simple exercise and a great one to start with. It can be performed often throughout the day and only takes a moment, although we’d recommend a few repetitions to get the most out of it.
Begin to move the shoulder blades back towards one another so that the back muscles are squeezing a little and the chest is gently stretching (retraction).
Then keeping them squeezed together begin to shrug them up towards your ears (elevation).
Now begin to roll the shoulders forward (protraction) and down to the starting position (depression).
To reverse the direction, roll the shoulders forwards to spread the shoulder blades apart.
Roll them forward and up towards your ears and then pinch them back together as you roll them back down to the start again.
Perform slowly and regularly in both directions.
Melbourne Natural Therapies
Shoulder Rolls Stretch
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