The “Anti-Computer Shoulder” Stretch

If you spend most of your time at a computer or desk, this stretch is for you. I’m willing to bet that you’ve experienced some form of tension or tightness in your neck, back and/or shoulders at some point in your career. The truth is, by sitting at your desk for 8 hours a day, your pectoral muscles, which run along the front of your chest, have shortened and your upper back muscles have lengthened. This leads to a severe imbalance of the front and back of the body and can lead to pain, tension and tightness. This is what I call “computer shoulders” and working in the Silicon Valley, I see a lot of them.

Enter, the “Anti-Computer Shoulder” stretch.

This is a simple stretch, but it is my absolute favorite stretch to relieve tension and pain in the upper body. I frequently end my mat classes with this stretch because of its healing properties. It also causes you to slow down and relax, something that most people won’t do on their own. So, when I have my clients captive in class, I include this stretch and encourage deep breathing for an effective, tension-relieving break in their day.


1. Lay on your side with your arms stacked out in front of you. Your knees should be aligned at a 90 degree angle in front of you. It’s imperative to keep your hips and knees perfectly stacked throughout the entire movement to get the full benefit of the stretch. Envision that they are bolted together and cannot move. NOTE: If this position is uncomfortable for your neck, simply fold a towel underneath your head for support.

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2. Slowly trace a big circle with your arm, attempting to keep your hand on or near the ground throughout the whole rotation. You can think of your arm as a hand on a clock. Many of you will not be able to keep your hand on the ground due to tight muscles, this may be an indicator that you should be doing this stretch more often. As you rotate with your arm, allow your head and chest to roll open and look toward the ceiling. You should feel a deep stretch along the front of your arm/chest and into your back.

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3. Draw 5 slow circles in each direction while breathing deeply. Then repeat on the other side.

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Questions? Post them in the comments below. I’m here for you!

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  1. […] My achy breaky back! Ease computer-related neck, shoulder and back pain with this stretch. — The Balanced Life […]

  2. […] My achy breaky back! Ease computer-related neck, shoulder and back pain with this stretch. — The Balanced Life […]

    • Leah 8 years ago

      Lovely. Thank you. But you “lie” down, you don’t “lay” down. 🙂

  3. Ghasem Nsiri 8 years ago

    It is really good and useful, if there is some more exercises let me know please.
    With many thanks.

  4. ann marie 7 years ago

    Hi Robin. Nice I came across your website. I don’t like my very occasional computer work nor its effects but this is great! I think I’ll add that to my yoga program along with the other shoulder stretches right before moving onto the prone asanas! Surely there is no law against that – I am trained by an Indian Guruji but mainly practice alone. Really good and provides instant relief, many thanks.

  5. Mads Nielsen 7 years ago

    Thanks for a good explanation of the exercise. I just did 5 on each side, and I’m aching! And you’re right, I couldn’t touch the floor at all. Hopefully it’ll be good after a while.

  6. Bharat 4 years ago

    Great. I just did your exercise and got an immediate relief from my back solder pain. Thanks a lot.

  7. pamela sanford 3 years ago

    Can you post a video on exactly how to do this? I am not getting the whole exercise by just reading how to do it.

    • Sarah 3 years ago

      Thank you for the idea, Pamela! We will mark this down as an idea for the future! 🙂

  8. Ann-Marie 3 years ago

    i cannot lie on the floor what else can i do?

  9. William M. Buttlicker 3 years ago

    Wow, great stretch. Thanks for sharing!

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