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12 Simple Exercises for Neck And Shoulder Pain Relief

Written by Sara Leandro
Sara Leandro is a certified health coach who helps people make lifestyle changes that meet their unique needs and health goals.
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Sometimes, as a result of bad posture or too much strain and pressure on our muscles, we feel pain around our necks and shoulders. Depending on the cause, the pain may be dull and steady or may only appear when we make certain movements. Whatever the case, it is usually discomforting, and we can’t wait for it to pass.

If you are experiencing neck and shoulder pain right now, you should try out these 15 exercises for neck and shoulder pain relief. They are simple and can be done at home, offering fast relief.

1. Shoulder Roll

The name suggests what this exercise is about: rolling your shoulders. It offers relief by easing tension on the muscle groups which are responsible for rolling the shoulders.

To do this exercise:

  1. Stand erect, with your arms by your side—something like standing at attention. You can open your palms, cupping the side of your thigh if you want.
  2. Now, without stiffening your abdominal muscles or tightening your chest, roll your shoulders back. It should appear as if you are shrugging, only this time you will move your shoulders further back.
  3. Repeat this a number of times. Five, maybe ten times, then rest and start all over.

2. Arm Raises

Nothing, except sleeping, perhaps, is simpler than raising your arms. This simple exercise—Arm Raises—can offer relief from neck and shoulder pain by working the muscles of your shoulders, particularly the deltoid muscle and some muscles in the upper back.

To perform an arm raise:

  1. Stand at attention with your arms by your side, just as you did with the shoulder rolls. If you want, you can stand on your toes.
  2. Now, raise your arms slowly, reaching towards the sky. Make sure not to flex your elbows. The arm has to be straight all the way to the wrist.
  3. Raise both arms until they meet. Now, slowly return your arms to their position by your side.
  4. Repeat a couple of times and rest to continue soon.

3. Arm Circle

The arm circle is a simple yet effective neck and shoulder pain relief exercise.

Think of this exercise as you being a bird that can’t exactly fly. You know, that game some of us played as kids. You are the bird, and your wings, stationary, are your arms.

  1. Just stand erect, your arms spread out, and your elbows not flexed. It is important that you don’t flex your elbows. Your arms don’t have to be angled down. They have to be straight, parallel to the floor.
  2. Now, circle your arms. Your shoulder joint is the pivot in this exercise.
  3. Keep circling several times, then rest and continue.

4. Cat-Cow

This simple yet effective exercise is a multi-purpose exercise that works on several muscle groups, including muscles in the upper back, neck, and mid-back.

To do this exercise, you have to take the stance of an animal on four legs.

  1. Crouch on your knees, your palms just underneath your shoulders.
  2. Now, raise your back just a bit. As if you are trying to form a convex semi-circle with your back. Do this while facing the ground.
  3. Then, sink your back by moving your neck backward so that your face points towards the ceiling. Exhale while doing this.
  4. Repeat a number of times and rest.
  5. Then start all over.

5. Neck Roll

The neck roll is a simple exercise that offers neck and shoulder pain relief.

To perform it:

  1. Stand erect, as if standing at attention, with your palms cupping your thighs.
  2. Now, roll your neck this way: Tilt your neck to your left so that you feel some kind of stretching in your trapezius muscle. The trapezius muscle is a large muscle that helps you move your neck.[1]
  3. Slowly, when a second has passed, roll your neck the other way.
  4. Repeat over and over, up to four times.
  5. Rest, and start all over.

6. Arm Reach

All you need is a chair to perform this simple exercise for neck and shoulder pain relief.

  1. Sit on this chair, looking ahead with both your feet on the ground. Try to put your feet close together and on the same plane.
  2. Now, without flexing or extending your elbows, raise your right arm over your head, reaching towards the right side of your body.
  3. Slowly, move the arm back to the start position.
  4. Do this a couple of times. Five times is just fine.
  5. Do the same thing with your left arm.
  6. Repeat as many times as you want.

7. Arm Scissors

This exercise works on the muscles of your shoulder and upper back. It is simple to perform yet very effective in offering relief from shoulder and neck pain.

To perform this exercise:

  1. Stand erect, with your arms spread out like an airplane’s wings.
  2. Your elbows should not be flexed or extended. The entire length of your arm should be straight and parallel to the ground.
  3. Now, move your arms towards one another and then underneath each other, as if they are some kind of scissors.
  4. Do this a couple of times.

If you want, especially if the exercise seems too easy for you and doesn’t seem to be doing anything, you can hold some weight in your hands. But be careful not to hold too heavy material, so you don’t cause any damage.

You are not supposed to feel any tearing. Stop if you do.

8. Chin Tuck

This is a common and simple exercise known to offer relief from neck and shoulder pain caused by strain from bad posture. It works on the muscles that work to move the head around and over the shoulders—the scalene muscles and the occipital muscles.

To perform this exercise:

  1. You just have to stand erect against a wall or any other flat surface. Make sure your neck and shoulders are relaxed.
  2. Now, move your chin towards your sternum until you feel some gentle pull around your neck.
  3. Return to the start position after around three to five seconds.

9. Trapezius Stretch

As I mentioned earlier, the trapezius muscle is a large muscle at the sides of your neck and is usually the point of pain when neck pain is caused by strain and pressure from bad posture.


Stretching this muscle can offer relief by easing the tension on it, causing neck and shoulder pain to diminish remarkably.

To perform this stretch:

  1. You will have to find a position that works for you. You can sit or stand. Whatever works for you is just fine.
  2. Now, move your right ear towards your right shoulder until you feel some stretching.
  3. Remain that way for a couple of seconds, then move your head to the other side.
  4. Repeat a number of times.

Easy, isn’t it? Oh, it is. A lot of times, in a bid to find relief, a lot of us do this exercise even without knowing its name.

10. Prone Cobra

This simple exercise stretches the muscles of your upper back and neck and offers relief from shoulder and neck pain in no time.

To perform the prone cobra:

  1. Just lie with your face down. Tighten the muscles of your butt (gluteal muscles) and raise your chest off the floor slightly.
  2. Stretch your arms with your palms turned.
  3. Now, you should contract your shoulder blades. Squeeze them pretty well until there is some kind of stretching. Do this while making sure your chin points towards your chest.
  4. Hold still for a couple of seconds. Just about 20 to 30 seconds is fine. Do not raise your legs. Make sure that they are flat on the ground.

A way to make the most out of this exercise is to try doing a chin tuck this way. It should work wonders.


11. Nodding

Nodding can be a great way to relieve neck pain, especially when combined with other exercises that target similar muscle groups.

When you nod, the muscles involved are the needed muscles of the neck, so targeting them can relieve the pain you feel around your neck.

  1. Sit on a chair, face forward, arms by your side.
  2. Nod slowly. It is not a regular nod this time. It is deeper.
  3. Try to make your chin reach around your sternum. Now, move your head back up.
  4. Repeat a couple of times.

12. Chest Expansion

This exercise targets your chest and your shoulders. Chest Expansion is a great exercise because it aids flexibility and works your pecs and deltoids. It is simple and helps relieve shoulder pain as well as stretch the muscles of the chest wall.

To perform a chest expansion:

  1. Hold an elastic band behind you and pull on it a bit so that your chest and shoulders stretch just a bit.
  2. Raise your chin up as if you’re looking toward the ceiling.
  3. Hold and maintain the same position for about 30 seconds.
  4. Repeat a couple of times.

Wrapping Up

These exercises can help prevent neck and shoulder pain. Take care when you do activities that involve reaching for something overhead or bending forward. Try as much as possible to move your body in a way that you can minimize discomfort. If you’re an athlete, make sure you’re using the correct technique.

Featured photo credit: Chalo Garcia via unsplash.com


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