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Stretches for Shoulder Impingement Syndrome

by Patty Weasler, RN December 26, 2019 0 Comments

Woman Stretching shoulder

Shoulder impingement, also known as swimmer’s shoulder, is a common cause of shoulder pain. People who perform an overhead activity like paintering, swimming, and baseball are at greatest risk. The condition occurs when the bones that surround the subacromial space pinch the rotator cuff tendons, one of the structures within the space. Thankfully, shoulder impingement stretches are an easy treatment option that when used in conjunction with other treatments can get you back to feeling your best.

Shoulder Impingement Overview

Types of Stretches for Shoulder Impingement

Before you start stretching for shoulder impingement it’s important to understand shoulder joint anatomy. The shoulder has a collection of structures, including the acromion, bursa, rotator cuff, tendons, and ligaments. When you raise your arm bone the shoulder joint narrows. If there is swelling within the shoulder joint, movement can be painful and shoulder impingement can develop along with other conditions like tendonitis and bursitis.

The stretches you should do for shoulder impingement should focus on stretching the upper back, shoulder, and pec muscles. This prevents poor posture and rounded shoulders which can cause impingement. Stretching will also release tension in the rotator cuff muscles and improve your range of motion.

Benefits of Stretching

Stretching has overall body benefits--relaxation, pain relief, reduce muscle tension, and improved posture. Increasing your flexibility with stretching will reduce the likelihood of injury and minimize recovery time.

Stretches are an effective way to warm-up before exercise. See the best shoulder impingement exercises here.

Best Shoulder Impingement Stretches

Here we cover the best shoulder impingement stretches and how to perform them safely. If you have any concerns or questions after your review the videos and descriptions talk to a physical therapist or your doctor.

Shoulder Squeezes

This stretch brings your shoulder blades together and opens your chest. It’s a great stretch for someone with a hunched back or tight chest muscles. Start by sitting on the floor or a chair. Roll your shoulders back to open your chest. Bring your hands together at the base of your spine and interlace your fingers. Push your palms together. Reach your fists down and away from your hips. Your shoulders should open, the chest will rise, and shoulder blades squeeze together.

Hold this stretch for six seconds and repeat eight to 12 times.

Shoulder Extensions with Chair

During this stretch, you will use active range of motion to reduce pain from shoulder impingement. Begin by placing your hand on the back of a chair, on top of a table, or countertop. Push down with your hand and take a few steps away from the chair. Lean forward bringing your head down to the level of your arm. Hold for a moment. Bring your head back up and walk your feet back to the chair.

Repeat this movement 10 to 20 times, three times a day.

Internal Shoulder Rotation

When you perform internal rotation of the shoulder you should experience a nice stretch in your arm and shoulder. If it becomes uncomfortable, release the stretch and relax for a moment. Start out by lying on your back on the floor or a bed. Bring your arm out, with your upper arm perpendicular to your body and your lower arm at a 90 degree angle, with your hand towards the ceiling. Bring your hand and lower arm down keeping your shoulder firmly against the floor.

If that stretch is too easy then lie on the side of the shoulder you are stretching. Using the opposite hand press down on the rotating arm for added tension.

Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

Yoga for Shoulder Impingement

Yoga is widely known for its mental and physical benefits. When used for shoulder impingement, yoga can relax tense muscles. Try these yoga poses to help recover from your injury and get back to the activities you enjoy.

Downward-Facing Dog

The downward facing dog yoga pose can strengthen the shoulder, stretch the upper body muscles, and open the chest. Start by lying face down on a yoga mat. Place your hands on either side of you, in line with the middle of your chest. Push your body up to be on all fours. To move into the full pose, tuck your toes under and push your hips upward. Straighten your knees and keep your head down in between your arms. If you can, press your heels into your mat, spread your fingers, and rotate the inside of your elbows forward.

Aim to maintain good posture in this yoga pose for one minute.

Cow Face Pose

Sit down on the ground with both legs out in front of you. Stack your knees by bringing the left leg crossed over so that the left foot is tucked under the right hip. Take the right knee and place it on top of the left knee so that the right foot is next to the left hip. The closer your feet are to your body the less of a stretch you’ll experience in your hips. Next, lift your arms out at your sides, about shoulder height, and bring the left arm down and behind the back. The right hand goes up behind your shoulders and holds the left hand. If you cannot reach your hands together use a towel for extra length.

For an extra stretch, bend forward reaching your chin to your knee. Repeat this position switching both your arms and legs.

Hold the Cow Face pose for a few breaths.

Plank Pose

Come down onto all fours. Hands under the shoulders and knees line under your hips. Press the palms and tops of the feet into the mat and lift your knees a few inches off of the ground. Keep your gaze straight down. When you are comfortable with that, move into the downward dog pose. From that pose rock forward and bring your shoulders above your wrists. Extend your head forward, with your eyes looking down.

Hold this pose for ten seconds and take a five second rest. Repeat this for three to six sets.

Eagle Pose

Start by moving into chair pose by bringing your arms out in front of you wrapping the elbows and wrists together with palms facing each other. Move your elbows down and forearms away from your face. This should produce an internal rotation of the shoulders. Slowly, bend at the knees, keeping your knees and feet together. Put your weight onto the left foot and raise the right knee as high off the ground as you can. Then wrap the right leg around the left leg, with the goal being to hook your right foot on the left calf muscle.

Breathe slow and steady while holding this pose for up to one minute.

How Often Should I Stretch?

You should stretch three to five times per day. Overuse shoulder injuries, like shoulder impingement, take time and progress can be slow. Consistency with your stretching will be crucial to your recovery. Make a daily plan for stretching and strengthening exercises to help keep you accountable.

Some people will need physical therapy to help them stretch the areas that they are unable to do themselves. If you are uncomfortable developing your own stretching plan a physical therapist will be able to make an individualized one for you.

Physical Therapy for Shoulder Impingement

Tips for Stretching Your Shoulder

When you are recovering from impingement symptoms it’s important to avoid throwing and activities that require your arms to be overhead like tennis. Start your stretching plan only after you talk to a doctor or physical therapist to ensure that you are not making your condition worse. If stretching ever causes pain then you need to stop and take a break.

Here are a few other important tips for stretching your shoulder:

  • Breathe normally while stretching
  • Warm-up your muscles with five to ten minutes before stretching
  • Stop stretching if you experience pain
  • Don’t bounce while stretching
  • Try a grabber tool if reaching causes pain

Kinesio Taping for Shoulder Impingement

Massage for Shoulder Impingement

Best Sleeping Position for Shoulder Impingement

Taking the Right Precautions When Stretching Your Shoulder

Shoulder impingement is an injury that involves the rotator cuff and surrounding shoulder muscles. Adding shoulder impingement exercises and stretches into your treatment plan is a great way to improve not only the health of your shoulder joint but your whole body. Stretching might not be safe for your situation. We always recommend talking to your doctor or physical therapist before you start stretching for an injury.




Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.

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