In today’s day and age, people do a comically large amount of sitting. Often, this is also done with atrocious posture. All those hours add up – and we eventually turn into something resembling a hunchback. It’s not a pretty look. But in addition to being aesthetically disturbing, it also wreaks havoc on our poor body.
Especially the shoulders. Shoulder pain is an incredibly common ailment in our society – and one that doesn’t require expensive surgeries and bogus exercises to fix. You know that “classic” shoulder stretch where you hold your arm across your body? Toss it in the garbage. It’s useless.
Luckily, there are a few stretches and “mobility” drills using your trusty foam roller that you can use to kick that shoulder pain to the curb.
1. Foam Roller Pec Stretch
Here’s a fun fact for you – most shoulder pain does not originate from the shoulder joint itself. Most of it comes from the trapezius muscles – which most people are totally unaware of, and the pectoral muscles. When you sit at a desk, watch TV, or sit in rush hour traffic with a hunched over posture, your pecs are working overtime – and pulling your shoulder forward into horrible alignment.
So, we need to stretch these bad boys. Luckily, we can use a foam roller to perform a very low-effort stretch that will still produce amazing results. Lay your foam roller on the floor, dividing your body in half vertically. Ensure that your head is firmly on the roller. Don’t let your neck dangle off.
Bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, and let them hang off the side of the roller. This will stretch the pec major muscles. Hold this position for about a minute, since it’s very easy to perform. After all, you’re just laying down. To stretch your pec minor – which is more often the culprit in a lot of shoulder pain, raise your arms overhead and form an “arrow” with your hands. Hold this position for a minute as well.
2. Thoracic Extensions
The trapezius muscles – which are essentially the mid and upper back, are one of the primary sources of shoulder pain. The job of these muscles is to pull the shoulder blades back, providing a stable base for the shoulder blade to rest on. Because of all the sitting and hunching we do, these tend to get very weak and knotted.
Place your mid back on the foam roller, and raise your arms overhead. Attempt to touch the floor with your head, and then “curl” back up using only your mid back. A couple things to note here – unless you want to have some low back pain:
- Keep your core engaged. If you let your core go limp, you will hyperextend your low back, and cause more problems than you started with. This will also negate the tissue releasing effects of the movement.
- Knees bent.
- Don’t be one of those who goes up and down incredibly fast. Foam rolling requires slow and deliberate movement. Hold each repetition for a few seconds, ensuring that you are actually releasing tissue, instead of just putting yourself in pain for no reason.
- Inhale on each downward motion, and exhale on the way up. Tissue release can be uncomfortable, and you need to keep your breathing steady.
Do it for about a minute or so. You’ll know when you produce changes in the tissue, the feeling is unmistakable.
Those are a couple of basic movements that we can use to start ungluing all the tissue that is causing our shoulder pain. Please don’t foam roll the shoulder itself – you’ll be doing absolutely nothing. In addition, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Alleviating shoulder pain – and preventing it from ever coming back – involves strength building exercises in addition to tissue release and stretching. But for those just starting out, these two drills will set you in the right direction.