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Self-Care – Shoulder Pain in Back, Reaching Up and Around

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Here, you can find ways to get relief on your own from pain in the back of your shoulder that flares up when you reach up and around. You can read more about how people describe this pain and the activities that typically create the problem in this other post. You can usually lasting relief with the recommendations below.

Activities To Avoid or Change:


Stop raising your arm to sneeze into your elbow for a while. Sneeze into your shirt. Or mask. Or spacesuit.


Use the stretches below to warm up your triceps before you play tennis. Or volleyball. Or basketball. It’ll relieve the pain and reduce the chance of further hurting the shoulder. Be aware that the muscle won’t be as strong and will fatigue faster when you play until you get the problem rehabbed.

There are some other activities that should be avoided. Anything that reaches up and back could aggravate this, especially when it jerks the arm. Most commonly, this happens when traveling. Holding onto a strap or putting luggage in the overhead bin can stress this trigger point.


Sometimes, crutches actually help a shoulder problem. Not this one. Avoid crutches if you can. If you really need them for a while, see your physical therapist for a proper fit. Also, the physical therapists typically have great pointers on using them properly.

For Temporary Relief:

Temporary relief is usually easy with a pain patch on the back of the arm. This only works if you’re sedentary so that the patch stays on.

If you’re more active, you’ll need a roll-on, or stick to slather on before you exercise. It can open up the triceps and reduce the pain when you don’t have time for a proper warm-up.

I carry this roll-on of IcyHot with lidocaine when I travel. It has saved me on more than one tour bus trip. My day-long bus tour of the homeland of Anne of Green Gables wasn’t nearly as painful. My trip through the wine region of Chateau-de-Neuf-de-Pape was downright pleasant.

These self-care activities, like over-the-counter drugs, are not intended to replace appropriate medical attention. If you have concerns about these self-care activities, get help from a professional. Use these suggestions and strategies with discretion and at your own risk. See your doctor when your pain is severe, persistent, or not responding to these simple suggestions.

Stretches and Exercises for Longer-Lasting Relief:

The Basic Stretch

This is the classic triceps stretch. Place your hand on the same shoulder and lift your elbow. Remember, we are focusing on the shoulder end of the muscle. So, here’s a couple of pointers:

  • Try to keep your hand on the shoulder instead of letting it slide behind your neck. It’ll be tougher but more effective
  • Focus on working the stiff fibers near the joint instead of sliding the shoulder blade around.
  • Don’t assist too much. Instead, focus on retraining the shoulder muscles by doing short, easy reps.
  • I prefer to lean into a wall or door jamb to assist. It is easier and gives me more control. The elbow tends to slide up the frame in a way that is easy to control. Also, the door is easier than using a rope when the elbow is bothering me. Don’t press hard or too long.
  • As always, using ice-and-stretch really makes this easier and more effective.

I’d love your feedback on how this works for you and any suggestions you might have.
Email me at integrativeworks@gmail.com.

Yoga Corner

This variation on the classic pose uses blocks. Put a little extra bend in the elbow to focus on the triceps. Also, I’d use two blocks so there’s some room for my nose.

This pose, like the suggestions above focus on the shoulder end of the muscle. Again, you can use the bend in the elbow to regulate the tension in your triceps.

Backbends also help to open the long head of the triceps. The problem is in balancing and monitoring. Most people aren’t aware the tight arm doesn’t straighten as well as the other one. Having someone, or your phone, watch provides useful feedback.

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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia, where he sees clients. He has written materials and instructed classes since the mid-90s. This includes anatomy, trigger points, cranial, and neuromuscular.

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*This site is undergoing significant changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and include more patterns with better self-care. Meanwhile, there may be formatting, content presentation, and readability inconsistencies. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.