Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Shoulder Supplement: Daily Dose of Movement to Erase Shoulder Pain

My husband’s shoulder started hurting him a few months ago. At first it would come and go. Then it started aching and burning at night, so much that he couldn’t sleep on his side. I suggested lots of exercises to help strengthen his shoulder (which, to my dismay, he did not practice), and he regularly used his Yoga Tune Up® Balls for self-massage, but he was still in pain.

His shoulder pain affected me too, as he tossed and turned at night, disturbing my sleep. His pain altered our nightly sleep ritual; he had lost the ability to lie facing me, holding my hand and quietly speaking to me until we drifted into sleep. Occasionally, he would take an over-the-counter pain reliever, but they didn’t provide a cure — they only gave him a temporary “reprieve.” I urged him to see one of my favorite LA-based physical therapists, and finally he relented.

The movement Rx

Dr. Dawn at Kinesis saw the issue immediately: My husband had excessively weak external rotators (the muscles that stabilize your shoulders by keeping them “down and back,” preventing your shoulder bones from hunching up towards your ears and rolling forward toward your computer keyboard). He also had extremely tight internal rotators (the muscles that help you to hold your arms on your computer mouse and on your keyboard for hours on end). He had a classic desk jockey overuse injury, and the only remedy would be for him to take his new prescription regularly.

Dr. Dawn prescribed movement — not medicine — to remedy his pain. She also gave him a very strict dose: “Do this once for every five minutes that you work at your keyboard.” She taught him a shoulder exercise I call “The Hitchhiking Pizzas.”

Hitchhiking Pizzas

1. Stand or sit, stacking your skull over ribs and ribs over pelvis. (In other words,no slouching!)

2. Pull your arms against your sides, minimizing space between your arms and the side of your body.

3. Spin your arms so the palms face outwards, spreading your fingers as far apart as they’ll go.

4. Bend your elbows 90 degrees, as if holding heavy pizzas. Then try to move the “pizzas” backwards, imitating the action of a hitchhiker thumbing for a ride.

5. Hold for 30 seconds without letting your shoulder blades slide together. Don’t thrust your chest out and lose your stacked skull/ribs/pelvis as seen in the images below.

Movement over medicine

Within two days my husband’s shoulder pain went away. He is still doing those Hitchhiking Pizzas, although not with the frequency of the original Rx. If he doesn’t do the move several times a day (or does it wrong), the pain comes back.

Best of all, our own version of the “nightcap” has finally returned, and my husband and I can hold hands once again, dreaming soundly, profoundly and pain-free.

Conscious movement and proper positioning makes such a huge difference to the health of your body’s tissues. It amazes me that pills are constantly thought of as the “fastest way to pain relief.” In reality, it takes just a few moments to rearrange your body so that it can respond to the stresses of life instead of being broken by them. Pills take much longer to be absorbed into your bloodstream (along with their unfavorable side effects), while self-massage or a motion to reinforce a better posture take only a few moments and have no negative side effects.

I believe that self-care is the new normal for healthcare. It all starts with:

1. Being willing to improve your self-awareness.

2. Making choices that promote healing in the body.

3. Disciplined practice to reinforce health and prevent issues in your tissues.

PS. If you’d like to learn the basic moves your shoulders were designed to perform, check out this Gaiam blog.

Discover solutions for shoulder pain.

Watch our shoulder videos.

Read “Get Your Trapezius In Tune!”


About This Author

Jill is the creator of Yoga Tune Up®. Having studied Yoga, Dance, and Body Movement for more than 24 years she created the Yoga Tune Up® format to help people find and heal trouble areas before debilitating breakdowns occur. Jill teaches workshops and retreats internationally, is a longtime faculty member of the Omega Institute, and has traveled nationally choreographing programs for Discovery Health Channel. The L.A. Times calls her "kinetically arresting”. For more info on Jill go here.

21 Responses to “Shoulder Supplement: Daily Dose of Movement to Erase Shoulder Pain”

  1. Arianna says:

    My mother suffers from a very similar issue and is consistently in pain in her shoulders. Like your husband, she works a desk job where she is at a computer 8-9 hours a day. She’s tried a lot of different things to help correct the pain but nothing has seemed to help. This is definitely something I’m going to share with her and I hope it has the same effects and success on her, as it has on your husband. I appreciate the tip and the in depth description and pictures for how to precisely execute the movement; as to insure I will not cause more harm than good. Thanks again, I look forward to her hopefully being able to reap similar benefits as your husband has!

  2. Tina Broome says:

    Love it! Wishing more Doctors prescribed movement. FYI, Jill, I’ve been practicing Yoga for about 15 years now and since I started doing Yoga Tune Up my husband has actually started doing it too… and on his own!! Thanks for being a positive influence.

  3. Lara says:

    I give this exercise to probably 80% of my clients. A)they need it – most people have No connection to their infraspinatus and teres minor! B) it’s so easy for them to remember with all the fun cues! I also tell them there are slippery ipads under each armpit, so they have to squeeze firm and rotate, not swing, the humerus ;)

  4. Kayleigh says:

    Seems like a very useful way to wake up the rhomboids as well as get some awareness of shoulder protraction and retraction too!

  5. Lindsay says:

    I appreciate the simplicity and accessibility of this movement and yet the absolute effectiveness. I spend a lot of time bending over students (I teach a lot of privates) giving very physical adjustments and thus have shoulders which look like I spend all day at a computer. In addition to adding into my daily shoulder maintenance routine, this is something that I can even incorporate between adjustments to take better care of myself.

  6. Jeannette Foley says:

    When I sought out an ART therapist to help me get relief from my shoulder issues, this was one of the first exercises he gave me. Seems many people are suffering from slumpitis and the injuries or strain it induces. In fact, the chiropractic also recommended this exercise to my son to counter his increasingly protracted shoulders. Wide application for this one.

  7. Blake Rogers says:

    Hitchhiking pizzas is a great exercise i’m going to use it on long drives to keep my shoulders and neck loos. Also if i cuddle with my girl wrong it will be a great way to loosen up in the am before i start my day with lots of activity. Thanks for the pictures.

  8. Nancy says:

    I’m so glad that very specific details and illustrations for this pose are posted here. This is such an important movement, and the formula for computer use: minutes of time on exercise is a great reality check. As someone who inevitably succumbs to the lure of the bigger, more aggressive muscular actions, the last two pictures are especially relevant. I appreciate the nuance and discipline required to make the smaller, more precise and effective movements of the arm in the shoulder socket sans squeezing the shoulder blades and thrusting the ribcage forward. I now owe 2 minutes of hitchhiking pizza arms!

  9. Rosemary says:

    Happy to hear your back to your nightcap. The thought of the loss lit up my empathy receptors. My partner sleeps on the floor, and while I love to sleep next to him my hips often aren’t too happy about that. I prefer to sleep on my side facing him, but my hips polite request to change positions eventually becomes a blaring demand and I my change side and face away. Maybe I can find a movement Rx, or a bed, to keep my hims and my partner happy.

  10. Caitlin Vestal says:

    I love this post. As someone with a husband who spends all day every day hunched over his computer, it’s great to hear how simple an action helped correct what was going on in your husband’s shoulders. I will also say that although the movement itself might be a quick fix, I think the three steps you mention for self-care are actually three huge steps to take for a lot of people. Just being willing to see that our daily, habitual actions lead so directly to our physical well-being (an obvious truism for so many movement professionals) is a huge leap for plenty of people to make.

  11. [...] Tune Up® Blog « Don’t Let ‘Locked Long’ Rhomboids Drag You Down Shoulder Supplement: Daily Dose of Movement to Erase Shoulder Pain [...]

  12. Dana says:

    This just goes to show how important both modalities are. We can’t always just roll where we think will fix a problem. Exploring the surrounding areas with mindful movement & corrective exercise must too be the balance. And when at a loss, seek assistance.

  13. Tess says:

    I love that this can be done anywhere, any time–even discretely while sitting at a desk! It’s so empowering to take control of the pain in our bodies without turning it over to unknown drugs that simply mask our imbalances. Thank you.

  14. Paula B says:

    Yay, another Yoga Tune Up pose to supplement my shoulder care classes:-) I often mention to my students how quickly we can get a prescription for pills when we consult a doctor for body aches. If anti inflammatories aren’t cutting, how about pain killers?????? Serious!! How about a little Yoga Tune Up time everyday to bring the body ( and the mind:-) back to its well deserved balance?

  15. Geoff Brown says:

    I believe that improving your sense of proprioception with YTU is also a way of improving your self-awareness in general. I love the idea of serving your body through a self aware and honest practice.

  16. Kristin says:

    Love the three points of self-care especially number 3. Adherence is huge especially when it comes to counteracting and balancing repetitive movement in our daily lives. Hitchhike pizzas for every five minutes spent at the computer- talk about another level of self-awareness. Great stuff!

  17. John Greenhow says:

    Love this! Adding it to my daily routine of shoulder care!

  18. Susan says:

    Wow, this movement feels so good! I doubt that there is an American that doesn’t need this exercise. Thank you!

  19. Nancy says:

    Wow , now I know one of the reasons I don’t sleep and my partner misses holding my hand too :) Thanks Calling Pizza Pizza starting today .

  20. katie says:

    Ahhh, a new one for the shoulders…Love it!

  21. Bev Hotchkiss says:

    Oh I like this one. My husband is a chef so he is constantly bent over the stove, over a bowl, over the counter, over the sink…you get the picture. I often think he resembles a block of stone…and although he has started doing yoga at least twice a week (Amanda Tripp is his favourite teacher). I still think that ‘hitchhiking pizza’ would do wonders for him. Then I’m thinking, this would be a great one to incorporate into a lesson plan as I think most of us have a wee bit of that internal rotation in their shoulders. Thanks for posting!!

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Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

After studying yoga, movement, and the human body for over twenty years, I created Yoga Tune Up® as a simple way to restore my body and mind, keeping me balanced and free of pain. Using a specific and unique set of poses, movements and self massage tools, you too can LIVE BETTER IN YOUR BODY WITH YOGA TUNE UP®.


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