What exercise will help my achy shoulders?

Jane mugshot for JQAPlease could you sug­gest some shoulder exer­cises? I’m 90 years old and do all my own shop­ping and house work, so my shoulders ache all the time.

Doing house­work and car­ry­ing shop­ping may feel like unwel­come chores but they will have helped you stay strong and agile into your 10th dec­ade. While suit­cases on wheels and super­mar­ket home deliv­er­ies are very con­veni­ent, they are also examples of how we are los­ing every­day oppor­tun­it­ies to keep fit. I advise my older cli­ents to carry bags of shop­ping (evenly bal­anced in both hands if pos­sible), as this provides a free workout for your arms which will strengthen muscles and pro­mote bone dens­ity.

Shoulders can be trouble­some, though, espe­cially as we age. Our many shoulder ten­dons and small muscles can quite eas­ily become inflamed or tear. They also tend to take a long time to heal – not least because it is very dif­fi­cult to sud­denly stop using an injured shoulder.

Here’s some exer­cise sug­ges­tions for your achy shoulders. But first a note of cau­tion: if you get pain whenever you lift an arm in a par­tic­u­lar dir­ec­tion, you should ask your GP to refer you to a physio­ther­ap­ist to assess and help treat any shoulder injur­ies you may have. If it is just gen­eral stiff­ness and achi­ness, these may help:

1. Loosening: stand­ing with good pos­ture, “roll” your shoulders by pulling them up to your ears, squeez­ing them back­wards and pulling them down again. Repeat 10 times. Click here for the full exer­cise. Next, stand up, lean slightly over a table with one hand rest­ing on it and allow your “hanging” arm to swing freely round, as though draw­ing circles on the floor. Do 5 circles, change dir­ec­tion, then repeat with the other arm. Do these move­ments daily, morn­ing and night, and whenever you feel stiff or achy. Click here for the full exer­cise.

2. strength­en­ing: using a stretchy exer­cise band, sit upright on the edge of a chair with the band draped over your knees. Scoop the band up a few inches and, keep­ing your elbows tight to your body, pull your hands apart out to the sides. Hold, then bring hands back together again, slowly. Repeat 10 times (fewer if you get tired). Click here for the full exer­cise. Next, still sit­ting, hold a 50cl bottle of water in each hand, arms straight down by your legs and palms facing for­wards. Bend your arms to bring the bottles of water slowly up towards you, mak­ing sure you keep your elbows still. Stop a little before the bottles touch your shoulders and lower them slowly again until arms are straight. Repeat 10 times, swap­ping to heav­ier bottles or cans when this gets easy. Click here for the full exer­cise. Do these exer­cises every other day.

3. Stretching: Stand with wide legs and a little bend in your knees. Place your hands on your bum, lift your chest and squeeze your shoulders gently back, to get a good stretch across your chest. Hold for a slow count of 6, relax and repeat. Do this very import­ant stretch morn­ing and even­ing, every day. Click here for the full exer­cise

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