Prayer Stretch: A Thoracic Mobility Fix

Dr. John demonstrating prayer stretch

Whether you’re dealing with holiday stress or just forward posture, the prayer stretch is a great way to help relieve shoulder tension.  Everyone is dealing with something different and we can’t help but literally carry that stress around with us.  Have you caught yourself waiting or doing something only to notice your shoulders were almost touching your ears?  It’s incredibly common that we carry tension in our shoulders and upper back.  With all the hustle and bustle, take a few quick minutes for yourself to breathe and do this prayer stretch to alleviate your stiff shoulders and upper back.

Benefits of the Prayer Stretch

If you’re dealing with occasional or daily pain in your upper back or shoulders, the prayer stretch will help.  When done correctly, this stretch loosens up muscles surrounding your spine and your shoulders.  This will relieve stiffness and tension in your upper and lower back.  You’ll be stretching your lats, delts, paraspinals (the muscles surrounding your spine), and triceps.  This stretch is amazing for improving your overhead position by opening up that space in your underarm and unlocking your thoracic mobility.  

What Type Of Stretch Is This?

This is a little bit of a trick question.  You can do this as either a dynamic or static stretch.  It all depends on your range of motion and what you’re looking to achieve.  When doing this as a static stretch, you can let your arms rest out on the platform, couch, or bench you’re using.  If you’re looking to add some dynamic elements to it, we suggest using a dowel, stick, or broom handle to keep the distance between your hands the same.  Then you can bend and straighten your elbows allowing you to get some range of motion through your stretch. 

Dr. John doing the prayer stretch with a dowel to keep his hands separated and add dynamic movement

Prayer Stretch Pro Tips

  • Create Space – When performing this stretch you want to make sure you have enough space between yourself and the object you’re putting your forearms on.  If it’s a little too tight, you’re not going to get the benefit from it!  
  • Don’t overarch your lower back – Many of us don’t realize we have a bigger arch in our lower back than we think!  Make sure you keep it in a neutral position to get even more from this stretch
  • Sink your sternum – Often a small and very difficult movement for some of us to achieve, thinking about sinking your sternum to the floor helps to move the muscles in your middle back.  
  • Hand Position – keep your hands shoulder width apart.  If it’s too much, you can have them a little wider, but you want to stretch in an effective way that will transfer over to your daily life.  Using a dowel or something that you can hold helps keep you honest!  Oftentimes we don’t realize they’re getting wider than intended!
  • Breathe – Take slow deep breaths to relax.  Use your exhale to deepen the stretch in between your shoulder blades and drop that sternum just a little bit more!  Remember to keep that low back in check though!

Watch this How To Video of the Prayer Stretch

When To Do This Stretch

You can do this stretch whenever you need it!  It’s great to incorporate into your morning or evening routine or just when you feel tension in your shoulders.  Hold it from 30 seconds to 1 minute and repeat it 2-3 times.  You’ll feel changes to your back and shoulders in no time!

Get Even More Mobility

The prayer stretch is amazing, but if you’re dealing with daily pain, you need more. Supercharge your mobility in this area with MDRx Shoulder.  This 4 week program will improve your flexibility, stability, and strength in key areas that alleviate shoulder and upper back pain!  This holistic view of mobility is what will give you long lasting relief and results that stay!  Commit to MDRx Shoulder for 4 weeks and won’t regret it.  

Chloe stretching for her shin splints injury recovery

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