Stretches for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Caitlin ParsonsFounder of The Aligned Hygienst

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!

Talk soon,


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.

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