The real reason why our neck and shoulders ache

Whenever tightness is identified in one area of the body (the neck and shoulders in this case) there is a weakness existing somewhere else in the body. Now in the presence of weakness, the body will develop increased muscle tone that is observed as tightness simply to survive. Targeting the tightness alone without creating stability is a recipe for a painful neck and tight shoulders.

Eighty percent of the reason why we have a stiff neck and shoulders is due to poor scapular stability (weak shoulder blades) and restrictions in thoracic mobility. A sedentary lifestyle is the reason why most people lack thoracic mobility. To correct this we must first address thoracic mobility and then work on increasing stability. This is not because it is more important, but because it creates the foundation for normal shoulder movement. All the muscles that move your shoulder depend on scapular stability, but your scapular stabilizers depend on thoracic mobility. When we lack that mobility our scapula stabilizers give up their primary role as movers of the shoulders. We then rely on other smaller weaker muscles to work twice as hard to move the shoulder and eventually over work them. Now we have a tight neck and shoulders so we think stretching is the answer. Well the problem with stretching is that those muscles of the neck and shoulders are severely overworked and will not respond to stretching. In fact you will more likely develop more tightness with a stretch than relax it.

In other cases we do find poor inner core function which will cause a loss of the natural erect posture necessary for optimal shoulder movement and efficient breathing. I like to have my clients look at themselves in the mirror while they breathe. In most cases I will find that their shoulders will rise which is a clear sign that they are incorrectly breathing. Imagine using your neck and shoulders all day for breathing and they start to ache after doing everyday tasks such as picking up a bag of groceries. That is because the movers of your shoulders have been working all day just to breathe. Not having the diaphragm working properly is very common and is caused by one of two problems. One the diaphragm has amnesia and doesn’t activate; two the diaphragm can activate but we have a significant mobility problem in the thoracic spine. Using a simple yoga exercise like crocodile breathing (belly breathing while lying on your stomach) can be very effective in waking up that diaphragm. The expansion of air will help maintain mobility of the thoracic spine by keeping it lubricated which is integral to the movements of the shoulder. A lifetime of bad habits cannot be changed overnight but with the right approach shoulder function can be restored over time.

Jordan Nichols