Shoulder pain can be debilitating — anyone who feels a pinch while trying to grab something overhead, a sudden pain when reaching behind their back, or the inability to put on a shirt without clever maneuvers will tell you so!

Shoulder pain is the third most common complaint that we see as Physical Therapists worldwide.  Often with shoulder pain, we find that the rotator cuff (the four muscles that keep your arm bone centered on your shoulder blade) is not functioning properly, contributing to both shoulder and neck dysfunction and pain.  This generally leads to a lot of the shoulder pain cases we see, not necessarily something being torn or damaged in the shoulder

Shoulder Joint Pain Diagram

Here are 3 easy things you can do today to help relieve strain on your rotator cuff!

Chest Stretch in a Doorway

Generally with the shoulder, we need to stretch the structures in front and strengthen the structures in the back. If you think of the positions we find ourselves in throughout the day like typing, texting, reading, or watching tv, you’ll notice our arms are most often pointing in front of us and our shoulders tend to ‘hunch’ or round forward.  Stretching helps reverse that motion pattern and reduce the strain on your shoulders.


  • Find a doorway for this stretch.
  • Make a 90 degree angle with your elbow and put your elbow on the doorframe so it is level with the shoulder.
  • If you don’t feel a stretch already in this position, step slightly through the doorway until you feel a stretch in your chest.
  • Hold this for 1 minute on each side. Perform this stretch 2x/daily or after sitting for prolonged periods.


Sidelying Rotator Cuff Strengthening

The rotator cuff muscles are teeny tiny muscles that don’t need much to get stronger! This means you can strengthen them without any weight initially and then progress to using things like full water bottles or soup cans.

To start strengthening your shoulder:

  • Lay on your side and place a small pillow or towel roll under your top elbow.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blade muscles of the top shoulder so you pull your shoulder back toward your spine.
  • Lift your hand and forearm up towards the ceiling until your arm is about parallel to the ground.
  • Hold for 1 second, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat x15 reps for 2 rounds and perform 3-4x/week.


Adjust Your Posture Frequently

Your shoulders are frequently the victims of poor sitting and standing postures.   Check in with yourself throughout the day frequently and correct your posture as needed.

Try this posture check list:

  • Is your head jutted forward? Perform a small head nod to pull your head back over your shoulders.
  • Are your shoulders rounded or hunched over? Perform 10 shoulder blade squeezes and have them rest in line with your neck and trunk.
  • Are you symmetrically weight-bearing and in a symmetrical position? Shift your weight so you are bearing weight equally through your feet and fix your legs so they are symmetrical. If you are sitting, use your chair! Get your butt back into the chair and let the backrest support you.
Office desk Posture Demonstration

We have written many blog posts about specific workplace ergonomic adjustments if you feel your office set up is contributing to your pain!

New onset shoulder pain and strain can often go away on its own, but if your symptoms are worsening day to day, they are limiting your daily life or activities including your sleep, or they keep recurring over time, it’s time to see a Physical Therapist to help you get better and get rid of that shoulder pain for good! 

If you are in the Portland Metro area, give us a call at (503)295-2585 to start feeling better right away.  Our clinic is located in Tigard and we have ample experience treating shoulder pain and dysfunction. If you are not local, check out our blog on how to find a good PT to find someone to connect within your area!