To choose the best shoulder stretches, look for exercises that move the shoulders in a soothing rather than painful way. You should always stop a shoulder stretch immediately if it causes pain. Many books and online articles give great tips for shoulder exercises that can help relieve stress and aches. Choose shoulder stretches that you can do in different environments such as working at a desk, standing up outdoors and sitting down at home.
While sitting cross-legged on an exercise mat or carpet, place one of your hands on its opposite shoulder. Lightly pull the shoulder in different directions; take care not to force it too hard. When the shoulder is loosened up a little, you can gently massage it before repeating the same two steps on the other side of your body. For more shoulder stretches, you can lie down on your back on the mat with your arms loose at your sides. Slowly raise one arm up so you can feel a gentle pull throughout your shoulder and lower the arm. Repeat with the other arm.
To perform some standing shoulder stretches, stand up straight with your knees only slightly bent. Position one arm bent at the elbow with your fist reaching toward your back. Have your other arm in a similar position, but raised slightly higher. Now imagine you're drying the back of your neck with a towel. Use short, light movements to work the shoulder muscles gently; switch your arm positions and repeat on the other side.
Another good standing shoulder stretch is one commonly used as a warm-up exercise indoors or outdoors before exercising more heavily. The body is held straight with the knees slightly bent and the arms pointing out to the sides at shoulder height. Begin with your palms facing the floor and move both arms in a circular motion to create small circles. Gradually make the circles larger until you can feel the stretch all around your shoulder joints. Then turn your palms facing upward and repeat the circle movements from small to large.
When you're working at a desk and feel aches in your shoulders, sit up straight with your back against the backrest of the chair. With your elbows bent and palms facing away from your body, slowing swing your arms toward your spine. Make sure to hold the move to feel the stretch in your shoulders before moving your arms to the front again. When doing these and the other shoulder stretches mentioned here, you should gradually increase the amount of repetitions rather than overdo them all at once.