Under normal circumstances, the spring and summer are busy months. We would have sports to watch and play and ideally full-time work. Since we all know these aren’t normal circumstances, this is a good time to take care of yourself. While we encourage you to go for walks and stay active, don’t forget about your upper body. If your normal job entails keeping arms overhead, you need stable shoulders. If you’ve had some time to let sore shoulders recover, here are helpful moves that can improve your strength and mobility and decrease your chance of pain when using your arms overhead.
Snow angels. This image shows how to do this exercise with a foam roller. If you don’t have a foam roller, simply roll up a towel or use a pool noodle and lay with it along your spine. You need enough support so that you can move your arms freely. Make a snow angel with your arms; each arm should arc in a half circle. The easiest variation is to do this on the floor. If it feels too easy, you can progress to making snow angels against a wall. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions, at least once per day.
Quadruped “W.” Perform this exercise on hands and knees. Move one arm at a time with a bent elbow and squeeze your shoulder blade toward the middle of your back. Perform 12 on one side and then switch sides.
Quadruped thoracic rotation. As a physical therapist, this is one of my favorite exercises. The thoracic spine (upper back) is stiff in many people with shoulder pain, so this exercise helps with that. On hands and knees, place one hand behind your neck and keep the other on the ground. Point your bent elbow toward your opposite arm, then rotate toward the ceiling. You may not be able to move far, but that’s typical. The more you move, the easier it will become. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions, once or twice per day.
Standing doorway stretch. This is another one of my favorites! This is great if you typically work overhead but also if you work a desk. The pectoralis (chest) muscles can get tight and stiff, which pulls your shoulders forward and can decrease your mobility. Place your arm against a door jamb and step forward into the doorway. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat it at least once on each side. I recommend stretching two to three times per day, regardless of what you do for a living.
Hopefully, we will be able to return to a lifestyle that somewhat resembles normal. Keeping yourself healthy and mobile right now will ensure your return-to-work will be easy and pain free!