Hand holding a rag over their shoulder

Five Easy Stretches For Shoulder Pain

Apr 04, 2016

Author: Amber Metro-Sanchez

The following stretches are phenomenal techniques you can do both in and out of the office to help ease the ache.

Working as a dental hygienist is tough on your body, and you definitely feel it at the end of each workday. In fact, as reported in RDH Magazine, 58 percent of hygienists in North America experience some shoulder problems. Repetitive motions are a major contributor, as suggested in Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. They shorten muscles and lead to tightness and pain. Another major cause is the craning and repositioning you do to accommodate your patient's comfort, often causing strain to your arms.

This discomfort can interrupt your life in more ways than one, which is why it's important to do stretches for shoulder pain. As hygienists, it is vital to do whatever is necessary to protect yourself and prevent musculoskeletal disorders later on. The following stretches are phenomenal techniques you can do both in and out of the office to help ease the ache. No special equipment is needed and they can be done right in your scrubs. Integrating the first three into your daily workday will make your shoulders thank you.

1. Upper Trapezius Stretch

Begin by tilting your head toward your right shoulder while ensuring your left shoulder remains down. Hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds. Then tilt your head to the left shoulder while keeping your right shoulder still. Repeat several times to gradually loosen the muscles in both your shoulders and neck.

2. Shoulder Retractions

Start by putting your hands behind your back and interlacing your fingers. Then, pull your elbows toward each other and your shoulders will naturally stretch back. Hold this position for 8 seconds and repeat 3 times. This stretch is especially helpful after you treat an uneasy patient who struggled to sit still. You can also try this stretch to warm up before an involved procedure where you know you'll be in the same position for a long time. It's easy, and you can do it almost anywhere.

3. Doorway Stretch

This stretch is a convenient exercise to use in between treating patients. Simply find a doorway and put your hands on both sides, flattening both forearms against the front paneling. Lean your body weight into the doorway to release tension in the front-facing shoulder muscles. Hold for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat 3 times.

4. Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder rolls can be done from either a sitting or standing position. Begin by taking a deep breath and raising your shoulders toward your ears, one at a time. Then exhale and lower your shoulder down toward your back. Hold for 3 seconds and repeat this stretch 5 to 8 times.

5. Cow and Cat Stretches

This last stretch takes up a bit of room, so you may want to try it out at home first. To begin, get on your hands and knees. Next, align your shoulders over your wrists and your hips over your knees. While inhaling, arch your back upward as far as it will comfortably reach, mimicking the look of a cow. Then, while exhaling, arch your back down as low as possible to reach a catlike position. Hold these positions for 5 to 8 seconds in each direction and repeat 3 times. This is an excellent motion to release the muscles in your shoulders as well as your back.

If you've tried the above stretches for shoulder pain and the discomfort doesn't subside, don't be afraid to seek treatment from an orthopedist or similar specialist. Any time symptoms persist beyond a few days, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), it is necessary to contact your physician.


  • Shoulder stretches can be easily integrated into your workday.
  • Stretches like shoulder retractions can help you warm up before long procedures, too.
  • Yoga-based techniques are excellent methods to relieve tension throughout the body.

Why It's Valuable

When you engage in shoulder stretches on a regular basis, you keep your shoulders limber and ensure a healthier, lifelong career in dental hygiene.

More Articles You May Like:

How to Alleviate Dental Anxiety for a Stress Free Appointment Read More >

Five Organization Tips to Stay on track During the Day Read More >

How Digital Impressions Compare to Conventional Read More >

Background Image

Was this article helpful?

Thank you for submitting your feedback!

If you’d like a response, Contact Us.