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Why are my shoulders always tense (and what can I do to relieve the tension?)

Tense Shoulders
3 minutes, 16 seconds

Did you know that up to 27% of the general population suffers from general shoulder pain? Tense shoulders may be one reason for this troubling statistic, and allowing your shoulders to remain tense can easily lead to more serious issues. Not to mention making it harder to drive, type and do other tasks you do every day.

Why are my shoulders tense?

Shoulder soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc.) often tenses when it is inflamed and overstrained. Whether you’re slouching at a desk or repeating the same movements at work, shoulder tension can be your body’s way of telling you to change your habits.

Shoulder tension can also be a sign that you have an injury or condition that you don’t know about. For instance, it can be a symptom of conditions and injuries like: 

What can you do to relieve tense shoulders?

Besides being incredibly painful, tense shoulders can restrict blood flow to your neck and brain, limit the mobility of your shoulder joints, and irritate surrounding tissue. Tense shoulders can also affect other areas of your body. The most common of these areas is your neck. 

Your shoulders work together with your neck to hold up your head and align your spine. When your shoulders are inflamed and tense, your neck can quickly become tense as well. 

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ease tense shoulders and prevent your shoulders from becoming tense again. Some steps that can help in these ways are:

  • Stretch your shoulders.

While moving your tense shoulders can be painful, doing so can be the most effective way to release your tense muscles. If you don’t move your shoulders and encourage blood flow to the area, your shoulder tension can become worse and lead to immobility. Stretches like shoulder raises and arm swings can break up knots in your muscles. 

  • Strengthen your shoulder muscles. 

Tension in your shoulders can also be caused by weakness in specific shoulder muscles. You can address these weak muscles by using resistance and strength training to fortify them. Even better, you don’t have to do long workouts for your shoulders to benefit. One study showed that just two minutes of daily progressive resistance training for 10 weeks significantly reduced patients’ shoulder and neck pain

  • Apply pressure to the tense area(s). 

Pain in your shoulders can intensify in muscle knots, or bundles of tender, tight and sensitive muscle fibers. Thankfully, knots in your shoulders can be released when prolonged pressure is applied to the area. To get relief, you can use a tool or your hands to press on the tense area(s). A physical therapist can help, too. These specialists can use techniques like trigger point therapy or IASTM to press on trigger points and encourage the muscles around your shoulder to release. 

  • Find ways to relax. 

Many cases of shoulder tension can be linked to anxiety. This is because stressful events or “fight-or-flight” reactions can cause your body’s muscles to involuntarily contract. Muscles that contract due to anxiety may stay contracted for long periods of time. To release anxiety-related shoulder tension, you can incorporate relaxation methods into your daily routine. For example, you can practice meditation in the morning and a cooldown routine before bed. A study showed that relaxation training helped patients release their neck and shoulder tension over time. 

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for tense and painful shoulders

There are definitely things you can do to reduce shoulder tension and pain on your own. However, if your symptoms don’t get better over time, you should consider seeking help from a physical therapist.

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we’re proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. 

Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that’s close to you and that can help you address the tension and pain in your shoulders. 

Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. 

Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition.

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