The 7 Most Common Causes of Shoulder Spasm

Tight, stiff shoulders are among the most frequent complaints of most of our clients. This is especially true for those who spend long hours at their desks or behind the wheel of a car. The position we are in results in our backs turning upwards, our chest relaxing, and our shoulders rising and compressing, leading to poor posture and, eventually, shoulder tension and pain. What triggers these spasms? How do we relieve them?

The shoulder has a complicated structure comprised of ligaments, muscles, joints, tendons, and bones. Combining these components allows the shoulder to freely move through more than 16,000 different positions and 11 motions and is one of the most flexible joints within the body. In contrast to other joints of the body, the shoulder joint doesn’t have a large socket, and instead, the bone of the arm is pushed in a straight line of the blade of your shoulder. This makes it more demanding on the muscles surrounding it to ensure the proper positioning of the shoulder for a smooth, painless motion.

The rotator cuff (or rotator cuff) is an anatomical term used to describe all four muscle groups and their tendon, which help stabilize the joint of the shoulder. The muscles (supraspinatus, infraspinatus and subscapularis, and teres minor) are responsible for securing the humerus’s head (arm bone) within the glenoid cavity (shoulder socket) when you move. Alongside the four muscle groups, the two other significant muscles born and present in the shoulder region are the deltoid and major teres, which, together with the rotator cuff muscles, work to stop inevitable dislocations of the shoulder joint.

There are a variety of other muscles located throughout the thoracic region, which is the area between the abdomen and the neck that is also involved in aiding in smooth, painless shoulder movements. The involved muscles include the serratus anterior pectoralis minor, sternocleidomastoid levitator scapulae, rhomboid major and minor, trapezium, and latissimus dorsi.

A muscle spasm that occurs in any of the muscles that transfer the joint of your shoulder may cause pain and limit your movement range. The muscle spasm is an uncontrollable, painful contraction of muscles. The person might suffer from muscle spasms for many reasons. The seven most commonly reported shoulder spasms causes are the following:

  1. Muscle fatigue
  2. Training that is not utilized correctly or overused
  3. Dehydration
  4. The levels are low of electrolytes listed below: magnesium, calcium, potassium, or sodium
  5. Vitamin D levels aren’t as high.
  6. Nerve damage
  7. Muscle injury

Muscle spasms can happen when muscles become exhausted, overworked, or injured. Muscles exposed to sudden, unplanned movement are at an increased chance of spasming. It might also contract if a muscle is stretched beyond its limits or remains in an awkward position for an extended duration. The muscle spasms resulting from excessive use or excessive training can be caused by a decrease in the muscle’s cellular energy and fluid stores, resulting in hyperexcitable muscles prone to involuntary, violent contractions. A muscle spasm may be caused by a single muscle, a single part of a muscle in isolation, or a group of related muscles.

Muscle cells require sufficient levels of glucose, water, magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium to allow for the proteins inside the muscles to form an ordered contraction and function correctly. If someone is dehydrated or does not have enough electrolytes, they are at a higher chance of experiencing muscle spasms.

The root of muscle spasms varies from individual to person. A doctor best assesses it to determine the most effective approach to treatment.

A visit to an experienced Sole Tissue Occupational Therapist can aid in treating shoulder spasms. An occupational therapist skilled in soft tissue can examine the root cause of shoulder spasms. They will then give hands-on neuromuscular treatments like trigger point therapy myofascial relaxation to enhance the functioning of ligaments, muscles, tendons, and fascia.

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Trigger Point Release

Trigger point therapy applies pressure on the area of hyper-irritable or a taut band, also known as trigger points. The pressure helps to ease tension in the muscle by reducing the flow of blood to the area and reducing the pressure. Once the pressure is gone, the blood flow returns to the region and flushes out any toxic substances released by the muscle. These pressure points can cause pain in other areas of the body. The process can take only a few seconds.

Dry Needling

Dry needling is an approach that can be utilized to ease muscle tightness by activating trigger points (see above) using acupuncture needles. A soft tissue occupational therapist will employ sterilized and individually packed needles for acupuncture to directly “needle the trigger point. This will create a local reaction within the muscle. This then is quickly released and allows the muscles to relax.

Myofascial Releasing

Myofascial Release is a manipulative treatment that seeks to relieve any tension in the fascia due to injuries or posture or even inflammation. Fascia, a connective tissue, covers bones, muscles, nerves, organs, and nerves that make up the human body. The areas of restriction within the fascia may put enormous stress on nerves and muscles, causing persistent discomfort. An occupational therapist who works with soft tissues will use long stretching strokes to regulate muscle and tissue mechanics and increase joint mobility to easing pain.

These neuromuscular techniques help dissolve fibrous adhesions, relax tight muscles, and correct poor muscle function and postures. A hands-on approach to treatment may help solve joint or muscle imbalance. It can also aid in promoting the circulation of healthy, fresh blood to an area, thereby facilitating the elimination of toxic, unhealthy fluid away from the site. The improved nutrition and elimination of toxins from damaged tissue boost your body’s healing reaction and accelerate the process of healing.

Therapists who treat soft tissue could be able to create and suggest exercises and stretching routines to ease symptoms and prevent the recurrence of muscle spasms in the shoulder. Gentle stretching and exercise are likely to ease discomfort caused by muscle spasms and accelerate recovery. Regular stretching can increase the length of the muscle and stop contractures, helping maintain your muscles. They can also suggest gentle exercises to aid in the reduction of pain caused by spasms in the muscles.

Stretches That Could Assist In Relieving Shoulder Pain Include:

Stretches That Could Assist In Relieving Shoulder Pain Include
  1. Upper Trapezius Stretch
  • Begin standing or sitting up tall. Put both hands on the lower part of your body. While the other is to the opposite side of your head.
  • Bring your head towards your shoulder and look straight ahead until you notice your neck stretch.
  • You should hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

The upper trapezius is stretched.

2. Quadruped Thoracic Flexibility Stretch

  • Begin on all fours using your hands to support your shoulders and your knees placed beneath your hips. Engage your core and keep your back flat.
  • Put your left hand over your head to ensure that your elbow is pointing towards the left. The hand should be resting lightly, and don’t place pressure on your neck or head. This is your starting position.
  • Slowly move your shoulder and head toward your right hand. Floor.
  • Then, reverse the movement and turn towards the left, then upwards until your elbow is pointed towards the ceiling. Could you keep it for a few minutes?
  • Return to the starting position. Continue to do this for 30 seconds, continue on the opposite side.

It stretches the thoracic spine (neck down to the abdomen)

3. The Pose of a Child

  • On your mat, kneel with your knees slightly wider than your hips and feet in a row behind you.
  • Remain on your feet (as far as you can), fold your body forward, and rest your stomach on your legs. Spread your arms to the side and rest your forehead against the flooring. The stretch will be felt through your back and shoulders and your glutes and hips.
  • Relax your shoulders and chest toward the ground to increase the stretch.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel for a minimum of 30 seconds.
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It stretches the trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles, the infra and teres major, and the teres minor.

4. Handcuff Drill

  • Lie face down.
  • Place the palms of both hands on the side of your head. Your elbows should point toward the sides. This is the starting position.
  • Arms out to form”Y “Y.”
  • Spread your arms as far as you can. Then, you’ll be able to turn them around towards both sides while keeping your hands facing down. When you cannot keep your palms on the ground, turn your hands back to the palms upwards and then bring your hands towards the middle of your lower back.
  • Retract your arms and circle them opposite to return to the starting position.
  • Do ten repetitions.

Extends the rhomboids as well as the serratus anterior, trapezius and trapezius

5. Thread the Needle

  • Begin on all fours, placing your hands on your shoulders and your legs over your knees.
  • Place your right arm under and across your body, with your palm facing upwards.
  • Relax your left elbow as you slowly learn to your right shoulder; you will feel a stretch at the right shoulder.
  • Please keep it for a few seconds before returning to the starting place and do the same.

The trapezius is stretched, and rhomboids, levator scapulae, and the pectoralis major.

6. T-Spine Windmill Stretch

  • Lay on your back with your knees stacking in a 90-degree bend with your hips bent to 90 degrees. Put your hands and arms together on the floor. And extend them to the right. This is the starting position.
  • Begin to slowly open your body by bringing your left hand upwards and then over to the left side to form a “T” by extending your arms. In this position, the shoulder blades should be positioned on the floor.
  • Slowly reverse the movement until you return to the starting point.
  • Perform 5-10 repetitions. Alternate sides, then do the same.

The deltoids are stretched trapezius, teres major and minor, and the Thoracic spine.

7. Elbow-Out Rotator Stretch

  • Stand up or sit straight and tall. Put your left hand in your head with your elbow and palm pointed toward the outside.
  • Take a step over the front of your body with your left hand, and then grab your left elbow or bicep.
  • Gently pull your body forward.
  • You should hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

The supraspinatus is stretched, infraspinatus, and the teres minor.

8. Body-Shoulder Stretch Cross-Body

  • Begin standing or sitting up high. Take one arm over your elbow with the other hand, and then pull it across your body towards your body until you notice an increase in the shoulder.
  • Be sure to keep your elbow at a level below the shoulder level.
  • You should hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the process on the other side.

Deltoid stretch and supraspinatus

9.The Bent-Arm Shoulder Stretch

  • Begin standing or sitting up high. Put one arm across your body. Bend your elbow until it is 90 degrees with your hands pointing upwards.
  • Utilizing the other arm, draw your elbow towards your opposite shoulder.
  • You should hold for a minimum of 30 seconds continue on the next side.

Extends the deltoid the supraspinatus, teres major, and trapezius

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10. Overhead Triceps, Shoulders, And Overhead Stretch

  • Begin standing or sitting up high. Take one arm and raise it overhead, then place your forearm in front of you and place your hands on your back, between your shoulders.
  • On the other hand, hold it over your bent elbow and pull slowly to the point that you notice a slight stretch on your shoulder and the side of your hand. “You should never tug on your elbow,” Giordano says.
  • Keep your bicep near your ear. Don’t try to push it past.
  • You should hold for 30 seconds, then repeat the exercise on the opposite side.

Extends the deltoid as well as triceps

11. Reverse Shoulder Stretch

  • Stand tall and keep your fingers firmly securing behind you close to your butt.
  • Maintaining your back straight with your shoulders together, pull your arms until you notice a stretching in your triceps.
  • Keep your hands on the wheel for a minimum of 30 seconds.

The stretch of the deltoids and Pectoral muscle (pectoralis both minor and major)

12. Downward Affronting Dog

  • Start with your knees and hands by placing your hands on top of your shoulders and knees placed under your hips.
  • Spread your hands out wide and press your index fingers and thumb into the mat.
  • Lift your tailbone, then push your butt upwards and back, bringing your hips to the ceiling. Then straighten them as much as you can. Press your heels lightly towards the floor.
  • Your head should be positioned comfortably between your arms and facing your knees. You should have your back level.
  • Make sure to hold for a minimum of 30 seconds.

Extends The Deltoids Supraspinatus, Trapezius, And Rhomboids

Extends The Deltoids Supraspinatus, Trapezius, And Rhomboids

An occupational therapist who treats soft tissues can also talk about ‘at-home ways to ease pain, such as heat therapy. If you’re suffering from pain in your shoulders, Applying heating to the area could aid in soothing muscles and assist in the relief of pain. The warmth increases blood flow to the area and improves the flow of nutrients to muscles, assisting in the healing and lessening muscles spasm symptoms. Utilizing a heat pack, taking the hot tub, or using topical balms such as Tiger balm or Eagle balm can assist in easing shoulder spasms. Both Tiger balm and Eagle balm are used to heat the muscles because of the large amounts of menthol, an active ingredient that relaxes muscles.

The occupational therapist will look at lifestyle aspects, like sleep position or ergonomics in the workplace, to identify any factors that contribute to shoulder spasms and assist you in establishing a personalized treatment plan to help reduce the symptoms and the chance of recurrence.


  • Dr. Bradley Lynch

    Dr. Bradley Lynch is a board-certified sports medicine physician with a Bachelor's degree in Biology from the University of Michigan and a medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He completed his residency training in Family Medicine at the University of California, San Diego and a fellowship in Sports Medicine at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic. With over 10 years of experience in the medical field, Dr. Lynch is an expert in sports injuries, musculoskeletal ultrasound, and overall health and wellness. As an author at FitGAG, he shares his knowledge and expertise on a variety of topics, including sports injury prevention, musculoskeletal ultrasound techniques, and overall health and wellness tips. Dr. Lynch believes that a holistic approach to health and wellness is essential for optimal performance and well-being, and he strives to inspire his readers to prioritize movement, proper nutrition, and self-care. Through his articles, Dr. Lynch aims to empower his readers to achieve their fitness goals, overcome injuries, and enhance their overall quality of life.

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