People often wonder why they have neck pain and shoulder pain.  Here’s one explanation on neck pain and shoulder pain I hope will be useful.  Imagine an animal in nature that senses danger.  Instantly, its fight or flight response mechanism kicks in.  It will bring its shoulders up to its ears to protect its neck.  Very often the neck is the first place attacked because it is vulnerable and will incapacitate the victim.  We are animals and our systems work in a similar way.  For example, a car horn goes off and we’re startled-we flinch and raise our shoulders.  Notice how our shoulders creep up when we are under stress.  One of the muscles which connects the shoulder to the neck is the Levator Scapula muscle (which translates from Latin into “elevate the scapula”-the triangular bone of the shoulder). This muscle, along with the upper trapezius muscle are activated to elevate the shoulders.  Activated meaning tensed in order to use.  We are activating it constantly, even during lower levels of stress.  Add to that a heavy bag or purse,  a phone clutched between your shoulder and ear, and you will eventually create neck pain and shoulder pain.

So, what do we do?  Knowledge is power.  Now we know a possible reason for our neck pain and shoulder pain.  Acknowledge it and say to yourself,  “take my shoulders out of my ears, it won’t help me with this situation.”  Then take a deep breath-which always helps. This will become second nature the more you do it and you will find that this new position feels so much better than the old one.  The old one will feel strange the more you are conscious of your alignment.  It will become a habit the more often you catch yourself raising your shoulders, but you have to be strict with yourself in the beginning by catching or correcting yourself in the wrong alignment-awareness is key.

Here are a few tips to really support your new improved position and most importantly alleviate a good deal of neck pain and shoulder pain:

Get a good headset for your phone-you know you’ve been meaning to anyway!

Make sure your purse or bag has relatively thick straps that don’t cut into your shoulders which can be a main cause of neck pain and shoulder pain.

Doing “Lat pull downs” at the gym with light weight will help support this new position.  If an exercise causes excess neck pain or shoulder pain-stop and contact your doctor or a licensed physical therapist.

Sleep with the right pillow.  “Right” is one that helps keep you in good alignment as you sleep. The contoured pillows (usually made of memory foam) are excellent.  Experiment with different ones to find the right fit.

Try to mobilize the shoulder gently throughout the day to break up tension.  Light shrugging (elevation) and depression of them will go a long way.  If you feel this causes excess neck pain or shoulder pain consult your doctor.

I hope this makes you feel better and in less pain.  It can help your breathing, headaches, and mood to keep your shoulders and neck less stressed and out of that fight or flight response that daily living can put them in.  We can learn a lot from our animals.  Watch them stretch and decompress themselves-naturally.  Sometimes just watching them can relax you!