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!

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7 Thoughts on “Neck Pain and Shoulder Pain

  1. very informative site on health related issues.

  2. My hunch is that all of your blogs are set up for the response “That makes sense!” I like the simplicity that you promote here– do the most sensible things to see if they help before getting all complicated. I just did what you said (breathe, couple of shoulder shrugs and depressions) and I feel good…doodadoodadooo (James Brown doesn’t translate so well here but I hope you know what I mean).

  3. Very helpful and informative! I really like what you’re doing here, explaining in layman’s terms the cause and some solutions to a problem that affects so many each day.

  4. I used to have this problem sometimes, but then I switched to a roller bag. Sure it’s not “cool” to the idiots who care, but they’ll probably get nowhere in life anyways, so it’s not my prob. Well that solved my problem, but since I’m still going to school it’s not that important to me right now.

  5. I’m happy to come across your website. I think you’re doing a great service. I’m writing to let you know about the new information coming to light about natural alignment of the human species as every baby discovers it when learning how to stand and walk. Learning how to apply this to oneself brings remarkable results in relieving chronic tension and pain. Wishing you all the best!

  6. I have forward head posture that I have been trying to fix for a long time. My back / shoulders / and neck never hurt before I began working on it but whenever I attempt to stanad straight and push my head back even a little I get extremely tense shoulders and neck and soon after tension head aches. What can I do to ammend this problem?

  7. Hi Josh,
    Sorry to hear of your pain. It is difficult when you are trying to change or correct your alignment and you feel more pain. Our posture is created over many years and when we try to “fix” it or straighten it by pushing it into what we feel might be a straighter position we can set up a spasm within the surrounding muscles. This is one possible explanation but it is important to seek a professional who can work with you in person. I would seek the help of a physical therapist who can teach you exercises to use over a period of time that will guide you in a more gradual way. Our spine has natural curves in them see photo: ( that are designed for shock absorption etc. So, often what we perceive as straighter is in fact a distortion of these natural curves.
    Gradual changes over time gives the muscles a chance to acclimate to the new orientation. Do not hesitate to call your doctor for acute pain or headaches.
    hope this helps and you have some relief soon.

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