Reasons Why Your Shoulders Feel Tight and Stiff

There’s no way around it: stiff or frozen shoulders are just downright uncomfortable and lead to pain and stiffness in your neck. But sadly, most people who work an office job are not only prone to it, but experience it on a regular basis. And if you work at a desk yourself, you most likely have already tried it a few times.

There are a few reasons why your shoulders feel stiff, and sometimes even frozen, and while they can be difficult to manage, the result will help more than just your chronic discomfort.


Three things happen as the body’s response to psychological pressure: the brow furrows, shoulders rise, and the neck tightens. This is part of an evolutionary adaptation that raises the body’s guard for anything dangerous, but while a fight-or-flight response is great if you’re trying not to get eaten, it’s not so great for handling workplace stress. While it’s not easy to adapt to a high-pressure environment, being able to manage stress effectively allows you to handle this.

Sleeping position

Do you sleep on your side? If so, you’ll eventually find a certain stiffness in your shoulders when rolling out of bed first thing in the morning. The reason for this is because sleeping on your side pushes your shoulder inward, while the shoulder on top is usually overstretched, resulting in a feeling of unevenness in both your shoulders. The good news is you can prevent this by sleeping flat on your back instead, which not only lets you rest your shoulders, but also supports your head better.


Poor posture overworks the muscles in your neck and back, and the body’s attempts to heal these overworked fibers are what eventually results in inflammation. To prevent this, it’s important that you’re aware of your posture while you’re at work: lower back against the office chair’s lumbar support, screen eye level, feet flat on the ground, and shoulders pulled slightly back. You should also move around and take a short break when you can, or remember to stretch every once in a while.

Exercises to Remedy Stiff Shoulders

The good news is that most stiff shoulders can be managed well with a few simple exercises. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Shoulder rolls – Stand or sit straight and start rolling your shoulders clockwise ten times, and then counter-clockwise for another ten times.
  • Cross-arm stretch – Bring one arm to chest height and stretch it out while being supported at the elbow by another hand. Hold for thirty seconds and repeat with the other arm.
  • Arm swings – With both palms facing you, swing your arms as high as they can without moving your shoulders or your body. Do this for thirty seconds.

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