Shoulder Supplement: Daily Dose of Movement to Erase Shoulder Pain

Jill Miller by Jill Miller | October 9th, 2013 | 5 Comments
topic: Family Health, Fitness, Health & Wellness, Healthy Aging, Yoga

shoulder exerciseMy 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.

yoga for shoulder painyoga for shoulder pain

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.

yoga for shoulder painyoga for shoulder pain

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.

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yoga for shoulder pain

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.

shoulder exerciseRelated Articles:

Shoulder this Mission: Your Range of Motion

Yoga-Inspired Shoulder Strengthening Exercises


  1. Hmm, should I be worried I can’t even begin to have my arms more than about 45 degrees out versus the nearly straight line of your arms to your shoulders? Is that bad?

    Jen | October 10th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  2. Jill, this is awesome. I give a variation of this exercise out all the time, but I call it “No Monies” as in “aint got no money for ya…” :) , A.

  3. I’ve done something like this exercise in the past. I’ve also done this one-side-at-a-time while holding something such as the post of a pullup rig, while using my free hand to help keep my elbow from slipping to the rear. I may have learned the ‘pizza’ version of this way back when I was doing PT to treat an AC separation.

    I’ve also learned over the past year a related set of exercises: Similar to the ‘pizza’ position, but your arms take on more of a letter ‘W’ look. Do a set of 20-30 reps (slowly, not rushed), then reposition your arms, palm-up, to take on more of a letter ‘T’ look, do 20-30 reps like this, then reposition your arms palm-up to take on more of a letter ‘Y’ look, and yet another 20-30 reps rearwards.

    If your husband has ever been diagnosed with shoulder impingement syndrome (as I have), he might want to check out the Kirsch shoulder hanging/brachiation protocol (more info at There are also myriad mobility exercises available over on, just type ’shoulder’ into the search box there.

    And thanks for the reminder. I do NOT do enough of the pizza/W/T/Y exercises. I think I’ll do some now. :-)

    Jim | October 14th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  4. Glad to find your blog.Thanks for sharing this one, great job, keep up the good work.

    BeyonceJustice | December 4th, 2013 | Comment Permalink
  5. Nice instruction for shoulder relief.

    DexterDavis | April 11th, 2014 | Comment Permalink

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