Self Care – Neck Pain with Sore Shoulder

Self-Care includes
Activities to avoid and change,
Strategies for quick relief,
Stretching for longer-lasting relief,
Corrective Exercises, Yoga, and more…


Activities To Avoid or Change:

Pay attention to when this aggravates you the most. If it is when seated for long periods there are several things you can do.

Move. I make sure that I get up and move periodically. Traditional therapy approaches suggest things like setting a timer across the room that you just get up to stop and reset every 20 minutes or so. I use my Fitbit to remind me.

Improve the ergonomics
at your home or office.

This post offers some great ideas for actively sitting without support or sitting with supports that help you avoid pain and fatigue. There are also suggestions about a few useful accessories.


For temporary relief:

If you’d like stronger relief place a vapocoolant patch like IcyHot on the spot. It will offer a lot of relief, even though your pain is usually above the spot of the trigger point. Putting over the pain will offer some relief but won’t work as well as covering the trigger point. You can get these on Amazon.

Even though this will offer nice relief, stay with those chest stretches to fix the long term problem.


Stretches and exercises for longer-lasting relief:

The stretches below are a great start and will really help. Gentle persistent exercises to build you back are a nice continuation in that direction. Just a few minutes every other day of lunges, supermans, Aquamans, deadlifts, and hyperextensions really help. I started doing this almost 20 years ago and it made a huge difference in getting rid of my nagging back pain.

If you’ve had an acute injury to this muscle, like a dog pulled you with the leash, this stretch will help to lengthen out the lower trapezius.

If you can get some help, have a friend rub along the edge of the lower trapezius with ice before doing the stretch shown above. That edge runs in a line from the top corner of the shoulder to the spine at the base of your ribs where I’ve highlighted in pink. There is usually a tough little ridge there when this trigger point is active.

Electromyographical studies show that lower trapezius doesn’t contract to retract the shoulders, but contracts to stabilize the shoulder girdle during movements when of reaching up and forward.

These doorway stretches are usually a great help for opening the chest and letting the tension off of lower trapezius when you have tight pecs and rounded shoulders. Exercises to strengthen spinal erectors help support the lower trapezius.

This, and some bodywork, are usually the ticket for lasting relief.

This muscle contributes to Forward-Head posture. It becomes short and strong. Once the head has become imbalanced, this muscle is supported to become shorter and stronger.

If you have Forward-Head Posture, review this collection, especially the self-care exercise Tuck, Tilt, Turn and Lift.



Yoga Corner

Bow Pose from Shape.com

If you have a rounded upper back, chest openers are a gerat start. Cobra, Upward Dog and Camel are a great start. This takes the tension off of the shoulder blade so that the lower trapezius doesn’t have to constantly tense to pull it back.

Half bound lotus by yogaclassplan.com

If you have an upright posture with an open chest and tight mid-back, look for poses that open your mid-back by reaching forward and up.

You can start with simpler poses like Warrior I and focus on sliding those shoulder blades out, away from the spine and progress to poses like this half-bound lotus that extends the shoulder up and away from the lower thoracic spine.


Other patterns that may better match your pain pattern…

There are trigger point patterns
that have similar areas of referral
and impaired activities.

Check out these other posts about pain in the upper neck or top of the shoulder.

Extra Stiff and Painful?

When turning your head is very limited by pain, more than one of the muscles that creates a “stiff neck” is involved. Check out these posts on a stiff neck.

In this case, if the problem does not resolve with home care, consider professional help from your bodyworker. They will offer quicker, longer-lasting results.

This pain pattern can be a tougher one to resolve on your own when the trigger point has become chronic. Your bodyworker can help you with more complete releases, postural corrections, and guidance on home exercises.


This site is undergoing changes. Starting in early 2020, we began changing the format of the posts to include more extensive self-care, illustrations, therapist notes, anatomy, and protocols. We’d love your feedback. We are adding posts and converting the old posts as quickly as time permits.


Weekly Featured Post

Optimizing Tension for
the Best Day Ever

This post explores this idea and optimizing the ever-present tension in our lives for our best performance.

Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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