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Chest Openers for Tight Neck, Shoulders, & Upper Back

By: Dr. Lisa Bodratti, PT, DPT

Feeling a little tight through your neck, shoulders, chest or upper back? We’re here to help with some quick tips on how to loosen up!

Start with a basic Chest Stretch using a doorway or corner:

Standing at a doorway or corner, bend your elbows to 90 degrees and place your forearms onto the edges of the doorway/wall. Bring one foot forward and lean into the doorway to feel a stretch across your chest and into your shoulders.

Hold this for about 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.

Next, try an “Open Book” stretch:

Lay on your side with your head supported on a pillow. Bring your knee closest to the ceiling so that your hip is bent to 90 degrees. Bring your arms straight out in front of your body. Slowly take your hop arm and head and rotate away to feel a stretch anywhere through your arm, chest, mid back or low back.

Try a set of 5-8 on each side, hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds. Make sure you are not holding your breath.

Move to your hands and knees to try to “Thread the Needle”:

Begin on your hands and knees. Pick one hand and reach up to the ceiling. Watch your hand with your eyes so that your head rotates toward the ceiling as well. Hold this position for 5 seconds. Next, take that hand and reach downwards in between your opposite hand and knee. Hold this position for 5 seconds.

Try 5-10 repetitions on each side. Make sure you are breathing through this exercise.

If you have a foam roller (½ or full), pool noodle, or a rolled up towel, you can try some Thoracic Extension:

Lay on your back with a foam roller/pool noodle/rolled towel horizontally across your upper back. Support your neck with both hands as you let your upper back extend over the object until you feel a stretch. Try to place the object under different parts of your upper back to stretch out your entire thoracic spine. You can try to let your elbows relax to achieve some more chest stretch.

Hold each stretch for 5-10 seconds each. Repeat for 5-10 times.

Try these stretches out once a day to help loosen up your upper body after a long day of sitting at your computer for work or after a big day of yardwork! If you feel like you could use some more help, come and see our amazing team of therapists at The Green Room in Troy and now Clifton Park! As always, feel free to request a free consultation, offered either in-person or over the phone at

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