Remedies for Stiff Shoulders & Upper Back Pain

Nowadays, more and more people find themselves sitting for a long period of time. The difficulty to maintain an upright and correct sitting posture makes stiff shoulders and upper back pain become some of the most common problems that people experience. In some serious cases, these problems might even prevent people from getting a good night sleep.

If you are one of those people who constantly experience these problems, feel free to give the following simple stretches and home remedies a try!

Tools needed:

  1. Yoga block – if you do not have one, you may use a dictionary or a thick book instead.
  2. Yoga strap – this could also be substituted with a towel
  3. Eye pillow (optional)


Upper Back Stretch: Eagle Arms

Beginning with an easy upper back stretch, sit in a comfortable position – lotus, half lotus or easy pose. Stretch your arms forward, parallel to the floor, palms facing up. Cross your arms in front of your torso, so that your right arm is on top of your left. Try your best to place your right elbow on top of your left. Bend your elbows until your palms are in front of your face. Turn your palms to face each other and press your palms together as much as possible. Lift your elbows up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor and move your thumbs away from your face. (imagine you are stretching your fingers up towards the ceiling!). Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds, then switch the cross of your arms.

If stacking your elbows is too difficult for you, you may place your hands on opposite shoulders, as if you are giving a hug to yourself. Then lift elbows up until your upper arms are parallel to the floor.

Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds, then switch the cross of your arms.

The key here for either options is to sit straight by tucking in your belly gently and round your shoulders slightly. You should feel your scapulae stretching out sideways and your upper back opening up.


Shoulder Stretch: Cow Face Arms

Come to a comfortable sitting position once again. Raise your left arm to the ceiling, bend your elbow until your left fingertips touches your shoulder/back. Extend your right arm to the side, palm facing towards the front. Turn your right thumb down towards the floor. Swing your right arm to your back, bend your elbow with your right palm facing away your back. Clasp your fingers together, snuggle your top elbow behind your head and your bottom elbow behind your back as much as possible. Try to maintain your head in an upright position instead of tilting your head to the side.

If you are unable to clasp your fingers, try holding onto a strap or towel as shown below:

Hold this pose for 30-45 seconds, then switch sides.

The key here is to sit up straight with your belly gently tucked in.

After holding this pose for a while, you should feel a stretch on the triceps (the fatty bit under your upper arm) of your top arm and the shoulder of your bottom arm rolling open towards the back.



Extra Shoulder Stretch: Cow Face Arm Variation

Sitting in a comfortable position, go into your cow face arm pose using your yoga strap or towel (even if you could clasp your fingers together). Snuggle your top elbow behind your head as much as possible. Maintain your top elbow pointing upwards. Move your bottom hand away from your back and return slowly to the original position. Keep the tension in the strap while doing this. Repeat for 20 times and on the final stretch hold your bottom arm extended to the back for 20 seconds before slowly returning. Then switch sides.

The goal here is to have you bottom arm extended to the back and making it parallel to the floor, while keeping your top elbow behind your head and pointing up towards the ceiling. Remember to sit up straight with your belly slightly tucked in.

You should feel the triceps of your bottom arm being stretched and the shoulder of your bottom arm rolling open.



Assisted Gentle Heart Opener for Stiff Shoulders and Upper Back Pain

End your practice with a 5-minute restorative lying posture.

Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Slowly lie onto your mat with your yoga block/dictionary/thick book on your upper back (ladies, this is where your bra strap is!). Once you have found a comfortable lying position, slowly extend your legs. Allow your head to drop back and close your eyes. Extend your arms alongside your torso, palms facing up and let your shoulders sink down to the floor.

For an extra shoulder stretch, instead of having your arms placed on the sides of your body, hold onto opposite sides of your elbows with your arms behind your head. Using the back of your head to add gentle pressure onto your forearms.

For a more relaxing experience, place an eye pillow over your eyes.

Remain in this posture for 5 minutes or more.

This pose helps to undo any crouching and incorrect sitting postures by opening your upper back.


Comment to let me know if these stretches and remedies work or if you have any questions or suggestions!


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