Whether you’re sitting at the computer the whole day or you just feel tense, stretching your arms can help to not only relax your arm muscles, but can also have a positive impact on your back and shoulders.

Below you’ll find some simple and effective exercises that you can do to relax your arms, mainly through PMR, self-massage and stretching.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)

First things first, one effective technique to try out if you have tense and rigid arms is the PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) technique.

Although PMR is generally meant for your whole body, focusing on a single muscle group can also help when it comes to your arms, hands, and legs.

Doing this kind of exercise for your arms throughout the day to ease the tension from working on a computer, for example, can help you to get into the habit of not tensing all your muscles as you get “into the zone” while working. PMR also promotes general awareness of the body which in and of itself is a great antidote to tension and different forms of stress.

How to do PMR, focusing on your arms

  • Set aside time to do these exercises without being rushed.
  • If you’re only going to focus on your arms, you only need about 5 minutes, but if you’re planning on doing PMR for your whole body you should set aside about 15 minutes.
  • Sit comfortably and up straight in a chair, with your hands resting in your lap.
  • Tense the muscles in your arms (making fists you like) and hold this tension for about five seconds. During this time, really take note of the tension. (Note that the tension shouldn’t hurt at all.)
  • Now relax your muscles slowly and focus on the gradual feeling of ensuing relaxation.

Anxiety Canada notes that focusing on the feeling and difference between tension and relaxation is the most important part of the exercise.

You can also – once you’re used to both the tension and relaxation feeling – only practice the relaxation part of the exercise. You’ll be surprised how often we tense our arms (or shoulders, etc.) during the day without even noticing it until something starts to hurt!

When doing the PMR, you can decide whether you want to practice in silence or whether you want to play some kind of music, white noise, or have someone guide you through the exercise using a recording.

Yoga poses to stretch your arms (beginner-friendly)

Healthline notes that sitting at a computer “can lead to sciatica, neck issues, and poor posture”, but adds that we should focus on our arms as well. To this end, they propose some yoga poses that can help to stretch (and strengthen) your arms.

Here are some of the yoga poses that you can use to stretch your arms. Your torso will also benefit from these poses. Click on the links for an in-depth explanation and/or video.

Yoga Journal also has a page of poses that you can use to stretch out and relax your arms. These, however, are not all meant for beginners.

Self-massage to relive tension in your arms

Asian woman doing self-massage on her arm

Self-massage is an underrated form of physical therapy that doesn’t get enough recognition. Just by using your two hands you can massage just about any part of the body and reap the set of benefits associated with massage.

Now there are many different types of self-massaging techniques, ranging from light ones like feathering and stroking to more engaging ones like kneading and holding. When it comes to effectively relieving stress and tension from the arms, kneading is one of the best techniques to employ.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Build some heat in your hands by rubbing your hands against each other for 5-10 seconds.
  2. Begin, then, by placing one of your hands on the opposite arm, let the hand that’s massaging be loose as you wrap and mold your fingers around different fleshy parts of the arm.
  3. When you’ve got the muscle cupped and held in your hand, start rolling the flesh between your fingers and the lower parts of your palm i.e. the heels of your hands.
  4. When you’re massaging smaller areas like hands and wrists, you can try kneading the flesh between your fingers and thumbs instead.
  5. Always keep your hands loose, relaxed and limber while massaging in a slow, rhythmical movement.


In today’s society, it is the eyes and arms (mostly hands and fingers) that are doing most of the work. Sitting in offices in front of our computers all day has its own toll it can take on us, knowing when to consciously relax these constantly activated body parts can be helpful for a more balanced and healthy life.