I struggled with neck and shoulder pain for years. I struggled to find stretches for neck and shoulder pain that actually worked… but when I did, everything changed. I created some powerful stretches that I’m sharing with you inside this article. So let’s get down to it–I’m guessing you’re here because:
- You either have neck and shoulder tension or pain right now
- You’ve struggled with it in the past
- You know someone close to you who does.
By the way, I wrote about neck pain specifically in this blog post. In this article, I want to teach you three stretches to reduce neck and shoulder pain completely, or drastically reduce the tension.
First of all, I want to remind you that you’re not alone – so many people struggle with neck pain and shoulder pain. In fact, “neck and shoulder” classes are the most commonly searched item by the students in my membership program with therapeutic yoga classes for all different things.
According to this study through the NCBI, or National Center for Biotechnology Information, there are other illnesses or conditions that can be caused by or affected by neck pain. The hard truth is that neck and shoulder pain is really common, especially with the increase of social media and technology. If you’re interested in learning how to sit properly, check out this blog post I wrote for you a while back.
As a culture, we’re constantly looking down; we’re either looking down at our phones, our computers, keyboards, or for some, gaming devices. You may be wondering, “what’s wrong with looking down? I’m only doing it during X exercise or for X amount of time.” To put it simply, looking down brings your head out of alignment from the rest of your spine: this adds more weight that the spine and other muscles have to compensate for. In addition, looking down usually also involves hunching your shoulders slightly, causing a tightness in the chest.
The image above demonstrates what it looks like when you head is far forward, like in a forward head posture. It also describes how much weight is added the further forward your head is.
In this article, Forward head posture (FHP) is defined as protrusion of the head and shoulders in the sagittal plane. Forward head posture is defined as the anterior positioning of the cervical spine This image is key for understanding WHY proper alignment is key, why you may have tightness/pain and why stretching should be a part of your self-care.
Let’s dive into three of my favorite stretches. I share videos for each stretch to teach you how to do them properly with cues.
#1: Lateral Neck Release Series
This “stretch” offers quite the punch. There are a few add-ons to the original stretch that allow you to increase mobility, reduce tension, and minimize the amount of strain on the neck and shoulder area.
This stretch series helps to reduce muscular tension throughout the front, sides and back of the neck. It also helps to reduce tension throughout the entire shoulder girdle. Both of these combined helped to bring, or keep, your neck and shoulder in alignment. Give this one a try and let me know what you think.
#2: Cat Cow – Robot Variation
Cat Cow is a really common pose in yoga, but we’re doing it a little differently today. We’re adding additional movements that will focus on the neck and shoulders. This series will help to both release tension in the neck and shoulder area (both front and back) but it also helps to strengthen the shoulder area. Both of which will help making good posture more attainable and sustainable.
Try this one every day but make sure you’re not hiking your shoulders up towards your ears.
By the way… I have a bunch more modifications for poses like this inside my monthly membership program, Aligned Online. If you’re looking to add some yoga into your regular routine, but you want something that has a therapeutic focus and is accessible for all bodies and levels, Aligned Online sounds like the perfect fit for you. Check out the details here–signing up is easy.
#3: Eagle Arms – Extended Variation
Eagle Arms is another common yoga stretch. With this one too, we’ve created a couple important add-ons for you. This one is a big one for helping to reduce tension on the upper back, neck and shoulder area.
The most important thing to keep in mind here is to keep your shoulders and head in alignment as you come into the pose to reduce aches and pain. If you have rotator cuff issues, frozen shoulder, or another issue that prevents you from accessing this pose, please don’t hesitate to reach out for additional support. I’d love to see how we can find a modification of this pose for you so it feels good FOR YOUR BODY! You can reach out to me here–just let me know what’s going on and I’ll be in touch.
Ditch Pain, Try these Stretches for Neck and Shoulders
If you’re ready to be proactive with your neck and shoulder pain, I highly recommend trying these three stretches regularly. Like with anything, sometimes they take time to feel the benefits, so be patient and be consistent.
Like you, I struggled with neck pain and neck and shoulder tension, aches and pain for years of my life. It took me a while to figure out that the main cause of it was bad posture and poor movement patterns. What does that mean? That way I sat, even when I tried “good posture” or “to sit up straight” and how I move my body (think: driving in the car, picking something up from the ground, twisting around to pick something up, etc.) was causing my pain to get worse.
Finding out ways to help me feel better by incorporating proper stretching, strengthening, and addressing the way I sat and moved my body was life-changing. I love helping my clients achieve this, too. So many of my students inside my monthly membership program Aligned Online have ditched neck and shoulder pain that they’ve had for years.
Are you ready to do the same? Check out Aligned now and don’t miss out on finding a bunch of classes tailored to neck and shoulder tension, pain and injuries. If it’s a fit for you, join the membership today & receive a 30 minute complimentary posture analysis with me FOR FREE!
I hope this helps & I’m here if you need more support!
Ready to learn yoga poses for back pain, heal chronic pain & feel your best?
Aligned Online is a monthly membership program for people that want to lead a pain free life and ditch chronic pain aches, & injuries by improving posture, building strength & mobility & managing stress through guided yoga therapy classes.
Free Healthy Posture Masterclass
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About the Author
My name is Caitlin, I’m a chronic pain survivor, Certified Yoga Therapist, Registered Dental Hygienist, and founder and CEO of Caitlin Parsons Yoga Therapy, a yoga therapy and wellness company. I recently made my dreams a reality by quitting my full-time job as a dental hygienist to pursue my passion and purpose helping others get back into alignment.
Now I use my personal and professional experiences with chronic pain, stress and anxiety, and injury recovery to help women step back into their own alignment – in their bodies, minds and throughout their lives. I help empower women to create balance in their bodies and minds so they can access greater levels of freedom in their lives inside my monthly membership program (Aligned), group coaching program for hygienists (The Aligned Hygienist), a Yoga + Coaching Program for Dental Teams, and private yoga therapy coaching.
I love to share my knowledge and expertise on mindfulness and therapeutic yoga for back pain through my blog and social media platforms as well as guest appearances on other inspiring and like-minded podcasts.
Client Success Stories
“I started working with Caitlin because I had recently gotten surgery from a brain tumor. I had very little mobility in my shoulder and arm. I was concerned that the lack of mobility, discomfort and reduced strength would increase chances for more pain and injury. Working with Caitlin was amazing, I would recommend her personal approach to anyone. She is dedicated to her work, has great knowledge and communication. Caitlin does a wonderful job guiding you back to your body and yourself.” – Ania
“I started working with Caitlin because I had chronic low back pain and regular flare-ups. I was told by multiple doctors that I would always be in pain and my posture would never improve unless I had surgery. The pain got so bad that I couldn’t play volleyball anymore, which created a negative spiral in my mood, energy and throughout my life. The results I got with Caitlin was amazing. I no longer have chronic pain or chronic acid reflux which I was on medication for. I’m much healthier and happier now than I ever have been!” – Russ M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I had neck pain, shoulder pain, neck congestion and ringing in my ears. I was working a lot, taking care of my family, and I was beginning to spiral downwards in a state of stress and pain. With all of that, life became a chore. I wanted to learn how to take care of myself so I could live a happy life and take care of my responsibilities from a place of joy, not dread. I wanted to get my neck to a place where it wasn’t painful and tightening every time I was stressed.
Now I no longer have neck pain or tightness, I’m stressed and ear ringing has greatly reduced. My body feels so much better as a whole. Caitlin helped me find peace. Caitlin has an innate sense of knowing how to tailor each session to fit how I’m feeling in my body and what I need. Caitlin helped me change the way I react to stress; now I’m more mindful of my reactions and the way I take care of my body. I’m stronger in my body and mind now which has positively affected my entire life.” – Donna M.
“I started working with Caitlin because I was completely disconnected from my body because of a genetic disease, having constant, chronic pain, extreme trouble sleeping and anxiety living in my own skin. I wanted to feel better- I wanted to have less pain and have a better quality of life–building strength and reconnecting with my body were a bonus. Working with Caitlin exceeded my expectations- I sleep so much better now and my pain has improved significantly. I’m less anxious and have practices to help when my symptoms flare. I’m more grounded and embodied, I have a daily yoga practice that continues to build on the foundation Caitlin helped me create.
Caitlin is incredible, she validated me and helped me work on my whole self. She customized everything to work specifically for me. I 100% recommend working with Caitlin. She believed that healing was possible and she held that vision for me and brought it to each session, and eventually I believed and embodied it too. She helped me find the power in every single baby step towards a more whole and healthy life, and I am completely transformed by it. This work isn’t the quick fix, it’s deep, holistic, soul-led healing.” – Hayley
“Working with Caitlin was the best thing I ever did for myself. I thought that I would always have pain because I’ve done so many things to try and help but they haven’t worked, until yoga therapy with Caitlin. Now I am living with less pain, my posture has improved, I am getting stronger, and my clothes are getting looser.” – Joan
“Before I came to Caitlin, I was taking Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis like clockwork. I would skip going to the pool or out with my family after work due to the pain in my body. I was very depressed and isolating myself from activities that I really enjoy doing with my family and friends. I had pain on a daily basis in my lower back, shoulder blades, hips and left knee. Some days I had so much pain and inflammation in my body I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day.
Since starting FTF I am slowly starting to get control of my pain and inflammation through the online program one-on-one sessions with Caitlin. Inflammation is decreasing, I’m sitting up taller and I’m more aware of my posture both at work and in my daily routines outside of work. I am no longer having to take Motrin and Tylenol on a daily basis and I am able to walk longe distances without pain in my knees. “
“I never thought I would get out of back, knee, and postural pain. I also have a curvature in my back that I have been told most of my life cannot be changed. When I came to Caitlin, I wasn’t playing my favorite sport and I was miserable at work. Even doing simple things was really painful. Caitlin completely personalizes her services based on your needs. She takes considerable time to answer all of my questions and targets my sessions for exactly what I need that day and what my goals are. Caitlin always asks me what is going on and listens really well. She is a wealth of knowledge about yoga, human anatomy, and how humans should move. No two sessions are the same. We changed the way I move while doing simple things like sitting in a car or at my desk, putting dishes away and bending over to clean dog poop so that my back is protected from re-injury. I am healing my back partly to return to playing volleyball. I now understand how to be in my volleyball stances and movements so that I can avoid injury when I get back to playing. I am already standing up much straighter and feel more confident. I never thought I would feel this good in my body and I am so wow-ed by Caitlins mastery of her craft.” – Russel
“Caitlin really knows how to curate yoga program for sustainable strengthening. My shoulders and core used to be weaknesses but after a few sessions I see my posture has improved and the range of motion in my shoulders. She’s caring, fun, and a pleasure to work with. I’d recommend her to anyone interested in trying yoga therapy.”
“Caitlin is fantastic. I’ve gone to many of her classes, specifically those with a focus on healthy backs. I’ve worked with her as a therapist on issues I have with my neck and shoulders from work. She’s patient, attentive and offers focused one-on-one sessions. The exercises I’ve done really help me combat the negative effects of sitting at a desk all day, highly recommend working with this lovely and professional woman!!”
“Caitlin has helped me grow and learn a lot about myself. She helped me realize the strong power of breath when I was over stressed and unaware of my mental needs. Caitlin helped me focus my energy, both good and bad, on my breath. With every deep inhale and cleansing exhale, I felt my stress and anxiety lessen and lessen. Eight years later, my main mantra is to ‘just breathe.’ It has literally changed my life. Along with the power of breath, Caitlin has helped me keep a constant awareness of how I physically hold myself. Not only has my posture changed, but I have also become stronger and my confidence has increased. I recently began running and was having pain in my hip and side leg. Through working with Caitlin, my pain subsided. She put together an easy to follow yoga sequence that helped my muscles and ligaments heal. I fully trust in Caitlin as a yoga professional, and recommend her gentle way of teaching to anyone.”
“This program has been so amazing for my pain. In just one class, my neck and shoulder tension released more than it has in years. This program has been so instrumental in managing and controlling my stress. It’s so easy to be “on the hamster wheel”. I look forward to my yoga time and meditation and have noticed a huge difference in my pain level. My family has even noticed my calmer demeanor. I couldn’t believe how much my pain was linked to my stress.”