"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

4 stretches to maintain your shoulders in shape.

Keeping your shoulder muscles flexible will help prevent injury.

The shoulder is essentially the most complex joint within the body. This is where the ends of the collarbone, upper arm bone and shoulder blade meet. And it's vulnerable to arthritis (wearing of the cartilage between the bones), in addition to tears or tendinitis (inflammation) within the rotator cuff – the group of tendons that aid you lift and rotate your arm. Shoulder pain can prevent you from lifting your arms to dress, or from reaching the closet or door.

How stretching helps.

Muscles are like cotton cloth. They may shrink a bit, but if you happen to stretch the fibers, you may stretch the material again.

Stretching your muscles corrects the shortening that happens with use and stretches the muscles to their full length. The more you stretch the muscles, the longer and more flexible they change into. This will help increase your range of motion, prevent pain, reduce the danger of injury and improve your posture.

Types of stretching

The best approach to stretch muscles is long, static (motionless) stretches that last 30 seconds to 2 minutes. But don't go right at this step.

Warm up the muscles first in order that blood and oxygen can reach them and make them more flexible. You can do that with exercise (take a brisk walk, pump your arms, or go for a swim). Or you may try a number of minutes of dynamic stretching — repeatedly moving a joint through its available range, without holding it in place. Just roll your shoulders forwards and backwards a number of times or make a windmill motion along with your arms (but not too hard).

Insider suggestions

Stretches must be gentle and pain-free, says Safran-Norton. “If there's pain, you can injure your muscles,” she notes.

She also cautions to never bounce your stretched muscles, which might cause injury and forestall you from stretching productively. “Jumping triggers a protective mechanism called the stretch reflex,” she says. “The muscle will retract so you don't overstretch it. But as a result, you never get to the real stretch.” Will,” she says. “An actual pull is maintained, with none bounce.”

getting began

Try the shoulder stretches we've covered here. All you would like is a door or wall.

Safran-Norton recommends stretching your shoulders three to seven times per week. “If you're really tight, stretch every day. If you're already flexible, stretching every other day is good,” she says. But avoid stretching too long or too hard: If you begin to feel pain, back off quickly.

Other suggestions: Make sure you get up straight whenever you stretch, and be certain that you're hydrated.

Climbing the wall


Motion: Stand straight facing a wall. Extend your right arm along with your elbow flexed (not locked) and place your hand on the wall at shoulder height. Slowly walk your toes up, stepping toward the wall as your hand climbs up. Stop whenever you feel a slight tension in your shoulder. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Slowly walk your toes down the wall and return to the starting position. Repeat three to 4 times. Switch arms and repeat.

Chest and shoulder stretch


Motion: Stand next to a door or wall. Extend your right arm and place your right hand on the sting of the door frame barely below shoulder level, palm facing forward and touching the door frame. Keep your shoulders down and back. Slowly twist your body to the left, away from the door frame, until you are feeling a stretch in your chest and shoulder. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three to 4 times, then repeat on the other side.



Motion: Stand along with your feet hip-width apart. Place your left hand in your right shoulder. Cup your left elbow along with your right hand. Roll your shoulders down and back as you gently pull your left elbow toward your chest. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Return to starting position. Repeat three to 4 times, then repeat on the opposite side.

Stretching the shoulder with rotation


Motion: Stand straight along with your feet hip-width apart and your hands at your sides. Place the back of your right hand against the small of your back. Your toes must be pointing upwards. Slowly slide your right hand up your back as high as you may. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat three to 4 times, then repeat with the left hand.

Photos by Michael Carroll

What about strengthening?

A mix of stretching and strengthening will function a preventive approach to maintain even a fancy joint ready for motion.

Photo: © Wavebreakmedia/Getty Images