Arm and Shoulder Stretches

Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Shoulder and arm joints are connected to your bones and muscles with connective tissue. Due to inactivity, injury and age, this tissue becomes dry, brittle and less elastic, commonly resulting in stiffness and pain. Whether you want to increase your athletic performance, reduce your risk of injury or relieve aches and pains, stretching your shoulders and arms can help soften the connective tissue around your joints and bring life and tone into your muscles.

Shoulder Release

If you work at a computer, write or eat, you likely sit in a forward flexed position with your head drooping, spine arched and shoulders slouched forward. Sitting like this often creates tension in your shoulders and arms, so whatever you are doing, stop, stand and stretch every hour. Start with the simple shoulder release. It helps release tension from your shoulder and arm joints, increasing mobility and alleviating stiffness. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your left arm across your chest. Grasp your left elbow with your right hand. Apply pressure to bring your left elbow down and around the right side of your body, easing open the shoulder joint. Hold for a count of 10, and repeat on your opposite arm.

One-arm Shoulder Flexor Stretch

Stretching helps pacify chronic tension trapped between your layers of muscle, bones and joints. As you perform the one-arm shoulder flexor stretch, you should feel your muscles and connective tissues "pull" away from your bones. This loosening allows your shoulder and arm muscles and tissues to fill with needed fluids and nutrients, helping to keep them lubricated, flexible and strong. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your left arm behind your back. Bring your right hand behind your back, and attempt to grab your left elbow. Pull your left arm across your back up toward your right shoulder. Hold for 10 seconds, and repeat on on your opposite arm.

Arm and Shoulder Loosener

Your shoulder socket holds the ball of your upper arm. Because the ball of your arm is larger than your shoulder socket, injuries occur easily. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shoulder problems accounted for almost 1.5 million emergency room visits in the United States in 2006. Loosening your shoulder joints helps reduce such injuries, so grab a partner and perform the arm and shoulder loosener. Sit on a sturdy chair. Your partner should stand in front and slightly to your left side. With your left hand, hold your partner in a handshake clasp. In a slow, rhythmic manner, shake your partner's arm from side to side for 30 seconds. Then shake it up and down for 30 additional seconds. Repeat on your opposite arm.

Seated Shoulder Stretch

Your upper body can assume more than 1,600 positions at the shoulder and upper arm joint, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. Naturally, with so many daily activities dependent on the normal functioning of your shoulder joint, you want to keep the area supple and flexible. The seated shoulder stretch can help accomplish that. Sit on the floor with your legs extended. Place the palms of your hands -- fingers pointing backward -- on the floor about 12 inches behind your hips. Keep your elbows straight, and lean backward toward the floor. Hold the position for 30 seconds.