The shrug: How to release neck and shoulder tension


“Hello darkness, my old friend…” We all know the feeling – the feeling of tension lingering between our shoulder blades and creeping into our necks. It can hit us after a long day at work after spending hours behind our desks, when we were picking up our baby or lifting our toddler a million times a day. The pain builds over time until we ultimately experience a clear discomfort that we can’t seem to shake off. While this is of course a great occasion to ask your partner for a shoulder massage, it would be far superior if we can have that massage without “needing” it to feel comfortable, but could simply enjoy it for fun.

mom's health - The shrug: How to release neck and shoulder tension

There is, however, a great and non-time-consuming exercise that you can do at home that releases neck and shoulder tension. All you need for this are two weights and 1 or 2 minutes of your time. If you are a new mom or don’t regularly exercise, start with 2 bottles of water. Hold one weight in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart, your feet facing straight ahead and your weight on your heels. Then, lift your shoulders up to your ears while pushing them back, like you try to bring your two shoulder blades together. Repeat the shoulder lift 25 times. If you can do more than 25 repetitions, increase the weight; if you can’t lift it that many times, reduce the weight.

This simple exercise loosens the tension in your neck and shoulders and, if done on a regular basis, also prevents a future build up.

While you can use dumbbells, kettlebells or exercise bands, if you include this exercise in your gym routine, there are a lot of “homemade” options you can use as to achieve the same effect.

Things you have at home that can function as dumbbells:

  • Lower weight: Food cans, water bottles, milk jugs, bags of flour/sugar/beans/rice/coffee
  • Medium weight: Sacks of potato, 2x gallons of milk, laundry detergent bottles (if empty, fill them with beans or gravel/soil), iron pans or skillets, casserole dishes
  • Higher weight: Carry-on suitcases filled with books, 2x buckets of water, 2 fabric bags filled with books

Whatever solution you choose, just make sure you have two of them and that they are of equal weight and you are good to go. Your neck and shoulders will thank you.

More on being a healthy mom to your mini-me in the mom’s health section. If you are a new mom, make sure to check out my tips on how to reclaim your body after giving birth.