Exercises that Help Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain

Exercises that Help Relieve Neck and Shoulder Pain

All of the muscle groups that cause me the most grief are in my hands, arms, neck, and head. It is amazing to me that too much typing or texting can lead to rotator cuff soreness and pain. Lifting heavy towels or large loads of laundry atop regularly throwing Frisbees and balls to my puppy can wear out my shoulders, easily building toward a headache if I am not careful.

Headaches are at the top of my list of the most debilitating and the potentially most averted of all pains I experience. The headaches I experience from pulled shoulder muscles usually last two days. Over the years, I have asked health professionals and researched all that I can for ways to alleviate the pain and stop it from happening.

I have traced much of the source to bending down and picking up heavy items (lifting items above my head is no longer possible), typing and texting for extended periods of time, and movements that overextend these muscles (for example, throwing a ball). I have narrowed it down to three exercises that are easy to remember, can be done almost anywhere and have been most effective for me.

They include:

  1. Stand against a wall with your arms extended. Move your arms up and down, as if you were making a snow angel. Move slowly to feel the tension. Keep your head up and your back against the wall the entire time. Do a set of 10.
  2. Sit upright with your arms at the side. Shrug your shoulders and release them in drastic fashion while dropping the shoulders down. I find that my muscles sometimes tremble after releasing the muscles. It is only momentary and feels better when finished.
  3. This exercise can be done sitting in bed as well as in a chair. Sitting upright, slowly bring your head down to your chest, then slowly bring your head up and gently put the head back. Try doing this in one fluid motion. As you do, slowly open your mouth so that it is fully open when your head is back. This helps loosen the levator scapulae muscles and is supposed to help with temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.

It is not always easy to remember to take the time to do these exercises when my muscles are tight and aggravated. Fortunately, as the tightness builds in my body, I get mild dizziness when lifting my head up fast from bed. Sometimes, I may experience a mild zapping sensation. If you have ever missed a dose of an antidepressant, you know the sensation I am referring to.

Leaning forward too often when sitting at my computer, leaning down a lot when doing tasks such as vacuuming, and bending my neck when sleeping, are my regular culprits.

When it starts getting tight, I reduce certain activities (such as typing and texting) and do the above-listed exercises to stretch and loosen the muscles. Should I begin to develop pain in the back of my head (occipital muscles), I take Aleve. I find that once it gets to this point, too much exercise only aggravates the now-inflamed muscles.

If I have overdone movements and ignored the warning signs, I have to stop all unnecessary activities for a full day. Regular doses of Aleve, as well as applying an ice pack to the throbbing areas, are required to get the heightened pain to settle. As the inflammation reduces, I am able to gradually find the source of the pain, as it is the last to be the most tender to the touch. At worst, it can take up to a week before all hand, arm, shoulder, and neck muscles settle.

If you have similar problems, I hope these exercises and tips are helpful.


Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.


  1. Patricia Bonezzi says:

    This is one of the most beneficial articles I have ever read for my exact symptoms. I literally lose the use of my right arm from simply turning the pages of a book on my iPad or texting. Pushing a heavy vacuum has me flat on my back today. These simple exercises are amazing for my shoulders and arms. So blast I don’t get the headaches but the pain in my arm is excruciating. Thank you for sharing your awesome tips.

    • Lori Galpeer says:

      I am glad to hear that the exercises I found, that have turned into a lifesaver for me, are of help to you too. I am glad you don’t have awful headaches but sorry to hear that it is your arms that are most affected. I know what you mean about arms getting to the point need to stop using them from an activity that seems so simple (as turning pages in a book or tablet). When that happens to me, I become amazed at the level of pain for something we consider so basic. Again glad that they are of benefit to you too! Take care 🙂

  2. Gwen Hill says:

    It’s so easy to get caught up in what we’re doing and not realize it’s time for a stretch break. These exercises are easy to remember and easy to do. Thanks for a really good article!

    • Lori Galpeer says:

      You are welcome; thank you for finding it to be helpful for you. It is so hard to remember to stop and stretch, rest muscles. Finding these particular exercises took quite some time and I found them easy to recall and effective – had to share these finds with others. 🙂

  3. Chris says:

    This is so validating. My rheumatologist essentially told me that autoimmune diseases didn’t have physical triggers. I know typing, using my mouse and my cell screen are major triggers for me, though I sometimes have flare-ups unrelated to an activity. This is the first time I’ve heard anyone refer to these simple daily activities as a trigger.

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