Back and shoulder pain is tough to deal with. Not only are you in a state of discomfort, but the pain hinders your ability to lift or work out. Many exercises and movements require support from either the back or shoulders. If you have back pain, you are limited in your exercising options.

Fortunately, there are many stretches and exercises to relieve your back and shoulder symptoms. You don’t necessarily need to sit there without a way to overcome discomfort in these areas. When these exercises are paired with regular chiropractor visits, consistent movement, and a healthy diet, your back and shoulder pain will feel much better.

Here are eleven simple exercises that can help you relieve back and shoulder pain, as well as start to strengthen your back and shoulder muscles.

1. Neck Rotation

Tilt the neck forward and down. Then, rotate it from right to left. Back and forth, repeat. Completing this sequence slowly for about 30 seconds will help loosen up the neck and upper back.


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2. Butterfly

The ‘butterfly’ movement places your palms on the opposite shoulder. From there, bring your elbows together to touch and hold it for five seconds before releasing. Do this five times. For the shoulders and upper back, this is a very gentle way to relieve stiffness and pain.

3. Shoulder Rolls

With your arms at your side, roll your shoulders backward in a circular motion five times in a row before completing the alternate roll forward a subsequent five times. Shoulder rolls will help stimulate blood flow in the shoulders and upper back, and help to ease out the stiffness in this area. Stick with your shoulder rolls for about thirty seconds.

4. Lat Pulldowns

Wide-grip pull-ups are a great exercise, but not everyone can do a pull-up. It’s also very easy to get the form of a pull-up wrong resulting in further injury and pain. A lat pulldown sits you down and you bring the bar to you rather than bringing yourself to the bar. The bar is, of course, weighted. 

This is a great exercise once again for the shoulders and upper back. It allows you to adjust the weight and strengthen this area as you move over the days and weeks ahead.


pull ups


5. Rowing

Rowing is a strengthening exercise for the upper back. Rows can be done with a cardio machine, dumbbells, or resistance bands. Since you don’t need a lot of weight for this exercise, just a little tension is more than fine. As you row into your chest, you should feel your lats working and over time, this will help develop the shoulders and upper back.

For a dumbell row, it is frequently performed with one knee and one hand on the same side of the body braced on a bench with the back straight and parallel to the ground, and the other hand holding a weight with the arm extended. The weight is lifted towards the hip until elbow bends past 90° and the humerus is in line with the back, then lowered to the original position.

6. Overhead Arm Tilt

Sit in a chair. Lift your right arm all the way up above the head. Then, tilt it and reach to the left over your body. Bend your torso slightly until you feel the effect of the stretch. Do the same with your other shoulder. This is mainly for the shoulders, but you will also feel it in your upper back and on your sides, helping build flexibility there.

7. Wall Angels

Stand with your back flat against a wall. Lift your arms outward into a T-shape and bend at the elbows to create a 90-degree angle. Then, slowly move your arms up and down like you would when making a snow angel. Everything should stay flat against the wall while you’re doing it. You’re not looking to do much in terms of stretching. You’re using your own weight and motion to cultivate blood flow.

8. Full-Body Rotation

Sit sideways in a chair. Rotate your torso towards the chair and hold it if you can, using the back of the chair for stability. This is a deep stretch. You don’t want to tweak anything so go slow and sit up tall. Holding a rotated position for 5-10 seconds is best. Repeat three times per side. The exercise will stretch everything in the back – upper, middle, and lower.


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9. Scapular Squeeze

With arms down at your side, squeeze your shoulder blades back and together. Hold for a few seconds and then release. Do this five times within a 30-second time frame. This will help stretch out the shoulders and upper back. It’s another important exercise to target this area, without using any weight or complicated movement.

10. Cat Lift And Cat Arch

This is a common yoga movement. Get on all fours with your palms directly under your shoulder and knees under the hips. Inhale, tuck your pelvis, and lift the back to create the shape of a lifted bridge. Then, sink your back towards the ground to create a dip or an arch. Do this slowly five times. For the mid and lower back, there is nothing better than the cat-lift-into-cat-arch movement.

11. Knees To Chest

This is for your lower back. Lay on the ground. Bend your left leg and bring it to your chest, and hold it there for 5-10 seconds. Then, release. Do this for the other leg. Do this three times each for both sides. This is going to release a lot of tension in your lower back. If there’s lots of tightness and discomfort in the lower back, this is a great exercise to get the circulation going and warm the area.


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