Image of a woman in her living room struggling with neck and shoulder pain.

5 Exercises to Help Your Neck & Shoulders and The Tech That Speeds Up Recovery

This article was written by Chris Marshall

As technology in modern society continues to advance, we now have the luxury of electronic devices, remote working, and online education from the comfort of our own homes. When we work or sit down for our favorite coffee, we have an abundance of cushioned seats, supportive office chairs, and standing desks to choose from. Each of these is designed to improve our posture and reduce the possibility of neck and shoulder pain as we go about our daily lives.

As we continue to try to move with society, we are seeing longer commutes to work and more hours spent hunched over at our desks. After work, we spend our evenings reclined on the sofa or with our faces stuck in our phones. Even with the well-known benefits of movement and exercise, the typical excuse of ‘I don't have time to exercise’ continues to circulate through work environments at home and in person.

Each of the factors above forms a breeding ground for neck and shoulder pain, muscle tightness, and general muscle dysfunction. Whilst many of us may benefit from the occasional stretching session at work, this doesn't quite provide us with the relief we need to reduce our symptoms and improve our quality of life.

In this article, we’re going to look at the causes of neck and shoulder pain so you can first understand what might be going on in your body. Next, we’ve discussed the best five exercises you can perform at work or at home to help improve your symptoms. Once you’ve learned about these, we’ve given you some tips and gadgets you can use at home to speed up recovery and get you moving again in no time at all!

 

Common Causes Of Neck & Shoulder Pain

 
Image of a man and woman's anatomy showing neck and shoulder pain.
 

Neck and shoulder pain can be defined as pain around your neck and shoulders with symptoms that may include a persistent ache, a stabbing sensation, and a shooting pain that travels from your neck to your shoulders and arms. Other symptoms may include a headache, neck and shoulder stiffness, and numbness or tingling in your shoulder and arms.

Neck and shoulder pain has many potential causes. These include physical strain, mental stress, injury, and aging:

  • Physical Stress - Overusing your neck and shoulder muscles during repetitive activities commonly seen when performing manual labor can cause pain and stiffness. Other factors such as bad posture, poor physical state, and excess adipose tissue can also contribute to the stress.
  • Mental Stress - As we navigate through life, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll feel some sort of stress at different periods. A common movement when dealing with stress is to tighten your neck and shoulder muscles which can cause pain and stiffness.
  • Injury - Injuries to your muscles, ligaments, discs, and nerves can cause damage to your spinal cord and surrounding regions, leading to pain. Other common causes include whiplash caused by common motor vehicle accidents.
  • Aging - As we age, continued natural wear and tear can cause parts of our bones to degenerate and become weaker. Over time, this weakening of our bones and muscles and repeated stress can cause pain.

  • Unfortunately, neck and shoulder pain may also be a sign of an underlying health condition such as cancer, arthritis, and meningitis. When you notice any of the symptoms discussed above, it's always best to consult a healthcare professional who will assess them and make a detailed diagnosis first before proceeding with the next step.

     

    Doorway Chest Stretch 


    Perhaps one of the easiest and most convenient exercises to loosen your shoulder, neck, and chest regions is the doorway chest stretch. Loosening these muscles against the resistance of the door frame helps to improve your shoulder mobility and reduce the risk of shoulder injuries. 

    These shoulder injuries, commonly caused by tight chest and shoulder muscles include upper back pain, shoulder impingements, and rotator cuff strain. Regularly performing the chest doorway stretch can help to improve pain and discomfort.

    1. Start by finding a suitable open doorway. Ensure the door won't swing shut or is fixed to a set point. 
    2. Stand by the open doorway like you’re about to walk through it. Stop just before the door frame.
    3. Raise both of your arms up to your sides until your elbows are at 90-degree angles. Your palms should be facing toward the door frame. 
    4. Rest both palms on the side of the door frame. If your mobility is limited, try moving your elbows down until it feels more comfortable.
    5. Slowly step forward with one foot until you feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders. Make sure you are standing upright with your chest out and head facing forward.
    6. Hold the stretch at the top position for 30 seconds. Step back and repeat for 2 to 3 sets or as required. 
     

    Prayer Stretch


    A woman doing prayer stretch with a pink mat in her living room.

    As the name suggests, the prayer stretch involves you getting into a stretched prayer-like position with your hands out in front of you. Whilst it has the same name, it isn’t something that tends to be performed in a church setting!

    Kneeling on the floor with both your arms stretched out provides a great stretch for your shoulders, lats, chest, and back muscles.

    Regularly doing the prayer stretch helps to improve shoulder mobility and improve the lumbar back range of motion, both of which can contribute to pain and discomfort in your back and neck.

    1. Start by finding a suitable space, preferably a padded area. If you don’t have access to a mat, use a cushion. 
    2. Get on your hands and knees. Sit back so your buttocks are resting on your knees. 
    3. Keeping your lower body in the same position, reach your arms forward as far as you can. You should feel a stretch in your back and shoulders.
    4. If you want to focus on a particular side of your body, reach both arms to one side of your spine to feel a stretch on the opposite side. 
    5. Hold the stretch at the top position for 30 seconds. Repeat for two to three sets or as needed. 
     

    Scapula Retraction Stretch


    A man about to do Scapula retraction exercises.

    Scapula retraction exercises and stretches use a simple movement pattern. You focus on pulling your shoulder blades back and down toward your spine.

    Performing regular scapula retraction exercises and stretches such as the one above can help to improve shoulder health and posture. Both of these can cause pain and discomfort when not properly addressed. 

    Regular scapula retraction is also a great way to improve your shoulder blade stability. Stronger shoulder blades can help to ensure correct shoulder positioning during various overhead and pulling exercises, both of which can cause pain if done incorrectly. 

    1. Assume a comfortable standing position. Your feet should be hip-width apart with your shoulders stacked over your hips. Imagine you are on a string with your body in a straight, vertical position. 
    2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. Keep your chin tucked with your arms at the side of your body. Avoid shrugging your shoulders throughout the movement. 
    3. Hold the retracted position for 10 seconds. Repeat the same movement for 10 repetitions. 
     

    Cervical Side Bending Stretch

     

    Like the other stretches we’ve discussed above, the cervical side bending stretch is easy to perform and requires no equipment. All you need is yourself and a suitable space. 

    Cervical side bends, also known as lateral neck flexion or side-to-side bends, help to improve your neck mobility by bending it side to side.  Tight neck muscles that limit the normal range of motion are often a big cause of neck pain and discomfort, affecting normal movement and quality of life. 

    1. Start by finding a comfortable space. You can stand or sit in an upright position. Ensure your head is kept neutral and your feet are flat on the floor. 
    2. With both hands by your sides, place one hand on the side of your face. Use the same hand for the same side of your face. 
    3. With your eyes fixed on a point in front of you, gently apply pressure to the side of your head. At the same time, resist the force of your hand with your neck. 
    4. Ensure your head remains stable throughout.
    5. Hold the top position for 10 seconds. Switch to your opposite hand and repeat the same movement. Perform for three sets.
     

    Cervical Retraction Stretch


    Another stretch that’s good for strengthening and stretching your neck muscles is the cervical retraction exercise. By bringing your neck forward to strengthen your deep neck flexor muscles, the cervical retraction stretch helps to counteract chronic forward neck posture to provide pain relief and improve comfort levels. 

    Regular stretching can help to improve a slouched posture by bringing your head and upper back backward. 

    1. Find a suitable space with a padded floor. Alternatively, use a mat if you have one. 
    2. Lie on your back with your neck relaxed. Your arms should be by your sides with your legs out in front of you. 
    3. Ensure you don’t push your head into the floor, making sure you feel the contraction in the front of your neck. 
    4. With your head on the ground, bring your chin towards your chest. Hold the top position for 10 seconds before lowering back down. Repeat the same movement for 10 repetitions. 
     

    Tips to speed up recovery

    As technology continues to evolve, more gadgets are being developed that can help us alleviate the common symptoms associated with shoulder and neck pain. 

    Whilst we still need to make sure we perform the right stretching and strengthening exercises as the foundation basics, craft technology can provide us with a helping hand.

    Let's take a look at three of our favorites!  

     

    Red Light Therapy


    A woman about to wear Kineon Move+ Pro red light therapy device to alleviate shoulder and neck pain.

    As a new and exciting way to treat several acute and chronic injuries, red light therapy seems to be paving the way in the realm of technology advancements. 

    In simple terms, it works by using low levels of red light that target the cells in your body, promoting increased cell function and tissue repair. More specifically, it increases the number of mitochondria in your cells, which are well-known to be the cell powerhouse. 

    When managing shoulder and neck pain, red light therapy can help to reduce inflammation levels and heal damaged tissue. This can in turn help to reduce the symptoms, providing you with some well-needed relief. 

    Several types of red light gadgets exist that can be used from the comfort of your own home. These include handheld gadgets that you can point at the affected area. 

    In terms of research, studies looking at the impact of red light therapy have shown promising applications as an affordable, non-invasive treatment option. 

     

     

    Muscle Massagers 


    Walk into any gym and you’ll find many gym goers massaging their muscles between sets or using it after their workout whilst sipping on their favorite post-workout drink. 

    A muscle massager uses percussive vibrations to warm your muscle tissue and increase blood floor to the target area. By applying it to sore and inflamed areas of your body such as your shoulders and neck, it can help to loosen tight muscles to provide quick pain relief. 

    Just like red light gadgets, muscle massagers can be conveniently carried around and used from the comfort of your own home or at work. They are basically a portable muscle relaxer that also feels good and can be purchased in different sizes. 

     

    Neck Stretchers


    Neck stretchers, also known as cervical traction devices, help to provide support and gentle stretching to your neck region.

    They work by supporting the space between your neck and the floor when in a laid-down position, taking some neck load off and providing symptom relief.  

    They are generally safe and easy to use and take seconds to get up. All you need is a neck stretcher of your choice and a suitable space.  As they don’t really help to solve the underlying issue of neck and shoulder pain, they are primarily used for temporary symptom relief. 

     

    The Importance Of Good Posture

     

    Focusing on good posture when exercising and performing daily life tasks provides a natural way to improve your neck and shoulder health, reducing the chances of pain and discomfort.

    When sitting, aim to change your position every 20 to 30 minutes.  Regularly check your body position to avoid hunching over or slouching. If you’re using a laptop or computer, aim to keep your laptop screen at eye level, using a stand if needed. 

    Implement the stretching exercises daily and try some of the awesome gadgets we’ve mentioned above at work or from the comfort of your own home! 

     
    A graphic image that has this text, "Join the Kineon Community." This encourages viewers to join the facebook group with over 3,000 people to know more about reducing joint pain, inflammation, and more with red light therapy.
    For more articles on neck and shoulder pain, read:

    References

    1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7399954/
    2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6027933/
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8725362/
    4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10440718/#:~:text=The%20prevalence%20of%20high%2Dintensity,SPADI%20score%2C%20and%20its%20dimensions.
    5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1763625/
    6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8617778/
    7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31977938/
    8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10723811/
    9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9980499/
    10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5523874/
    11. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10069390/#:~:text=Conclusion,forms%20of%20vibration%20and%20interventions
    Chris Marshall

    Chris Marshall

    Job Title: Health and Fitness Content Writer
    Location: United Kingdom
    Bio: Chris Marshall is an experienced health and fitness writer with a passion to empower others to achieve better health and well-being through meaningful lifestyle changes.

    With a background in nutrition and fitness, Chris aims to deliver science-based, informative content to educate others.

    Alongside health and fitness writing, he also works with private online clients to build positive lifestyle habits and improve their overall well-being.

    About Kineon

    Bringing the latest advancements in enhanced red light therapy for home use. Our mission is to get you back on your feet and moving pain-free.

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