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  • Writer's pictureCarly Appler

Neck Pain and the Shoulder

Neck pain is one of the most common concerns experienced by most people. There may be days when it is more settled, and days when it can flare up. It can be really difficult to get through the day with neck pain, especially when it is associated with a headache.

One associated cause of neck pain that may not initially come to mind, is neck pain caused by weakness in the shoulder. There are numerous muscles that attach to both the shoulder and neck and many of those muscles attach to the neck/spine.

Assessment of the Neck
Assessment of the Neck

Two muscles that attach to the shoulder and neck that can often contribute to neck pain, are the trapezius muscle and levator scapulae muscle. Both muscles attach to components of the shoulder, including the scapula - commonly referred to as the shoulder blade. These muscles assist in elevating the scapula or bringing your shoulders up to your ears.

Although bringing your shoulders up to your ears is an important movement that is needed for many activities and movements, sometimes we can use these muscles to do this action in place of another movement or muscle.

Below is a video of scapular movements as well as the muscles doing those movements.

In addition to elevating your shoulders, other important movements that are needed for shoulder function are: scapular retraction - bringing your shoulder blades close together in your back, raising your arm up sideways/forwards/backwards, and rotating your shoulder. These movements are all performed by several different muscles for activities including but not limited to: sports, carrying items, pulling, pushing, and unloading a dishwasher.

When those activities are not fully supported by the muscles that move the shoulder, mentioned above, in order to do those activities, the body may unconsciously compensate by elevating the shoulder in order to finish the movement or task. When this becomes repetitive, it may create extended use of those shoulder elevating muscles. When a muscle is used extensively without the support of other muscles, this can create soreness that can affect the entire length of the muscle, and in this case the muscles extending into the neck.

Assessment of the Shoulder
Assessment of the Shoulder

It’s important to keep in mind that not all neck pain is the same and everyone is

different. An assessment with your Certified Athletic Therapist to determine the root cause of your neck pain is important in creating an individualized plan that is right for you.

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