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Top 3 stretches to prevent neck and shoulder pain

Updated: Jul 28, 2021

Neck and shoulder pain are one of the most common symptoms we see at RBS Massage Therapy. It often involves postural problems, stress, muscle imbalance and chronic tension. There are hundreds of different stretches and tips to help neck and shoulder pain, but we want to show you the ones we find the most effective:

  1. Chest and anterior shoulder stretch

Chest stretch is one of the most important stretches in neck and shoulder pain management. In order to understand it, we need to introduce a condition called “upper cross syndrome”.

With most people spending a lot of time seated at a desk or in a car, the front of our neck and chest gets pulled forward. The muscles stay in a shortened position for a long time during the day and therefore become chronically tight. On the other hand, muscles at the back of our shoulders, around the shoulder blades, back of the neck and middle back are working hard behind the scenes all the time, trying to pull the head and shoulders backwards. Within most people, this group of muscles is much weaker and therefore gets fatigued, tense and achy. It’s a lost battle for the upper back soldiers.

In order to relieve the area around shoulder blades, it is crucial to stretch the chest and front of the shoulders/neck. You can do it at home, at work, at the gym; you only need a door frame!

Lean on the frame with your arm bent 90 degrees and hold the stretch for 30 sec. Swap sides. You can do it as often as you want, e.g. every time you see a doorway!

  1. Neck stretch in 3 dimensions

Many of us already know the sideway neck stretch – bringing the ear to the shoulder. However, this exercise only stretches one part of your tight muscle group. In order to ensure all fibres get lengthened (especially in the most significant muscles like: Anterior, Middle and Posterior Scalene, Sternocleidomastoid, Splenius, Levator Scapulae, Upper Trapezius), it is great to stretch the neck in following 3 angles:

Ear to the shoulder:

Ear to the shoulder; look down towards your trousers’ pocket/hip:

Ear to the shoulder; look up towards the corner on the ceiling:

Maintain the stretch in each dimension for 30 seconds and don’t forget to swap sides!

  1. Neck stretch with arm rotations

Sometimes stretching statically is simply not enough. Our muscles consists of fibres that slide and glide, contract and release during the movement. In order to make the stretch a bit more effective, we can introduce the movement. With this stretch, you start with either bring your ear to the shoulder or rotating your head to one side. Next, stretch your arm down, like if you are trying to reach for your knee and start moving your arm in circular motion: big, slow circles in clockwise and anticlockwise direction. You should feel the stretch in your neck, shoulder joint, chest, shoulder blade and top of the arm. Continue for 30 sec and swap sides.

Doing these stretches is not time consuming and many of our clients already do them daily. There are also additional things you can do to keep your neck and shoulder in a good working order:


Neck and shoulder muscles love heat. They soften and lengthen when exposed to warmth. Applying a hot water bottle, heat packs, having warm showers or baths, visiting sauna or steam room are all great ways to relax your muscles. We often recommend doing some of your stretches in the bath or shower to boost the effectiveness of them!

Trigger Point ball

You can self-massage some painful hotspots with the use of a trigger point release ball (or tennis/golf ball). Simply lean against the wall or floor, with the ball positioned between the spine and shoulder blade

(avoid bones and spine to prevent injuries or bruises) and slowly roll up and down or side to side. Imagine “scratching an itch” with the ball – roll it around the places that give you a sense of relief and a “good pain”. If unsure, our massage therapists will be able to demonstrate it for you.


Massage is the best and most effective way to keep your neck and shoulders loose and pain-free. Regular massage helps to prevent all injuries and gets rid of any tension accumulated from all day to day actions. It is impossible to avoid stress or tension, but it is a key to manage it in the best way. Regular, high quality massage reboots the musculoskeletal and neurological system to allow the body to move in a way it is designed to. What is more, it make all other self-practices more effective. Your muscles are more susceptive to lengthening and they will respond to stretching better when all knots, waste products and scar tissue are ironed out through soft tissue techniques applied during a good massage.

To find out more about neck and shoulder pain, click here or give us a call on 07723030517 for a free over the phone consultation. We are the experts in treating neck and shoulder pain - don’t hesitate to get in touch!

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