Neck Pain with Sore Shoulder

Your pain pattern,
What aggravates it,
How to get relief,
and more…

How People Describe This Pain Pattern

People often complain of pain in the upper neck with a sore shoulder. They are usually focused on the pain at the top of their neck. The soreness of on top of the shoulder is usually secondary to the neck pain but can be strong. They will often rub it and say that it is tender when they press on it.

The upper back pain is more often described as tension and the spot at the top of the shoulder is often described as soreness. It can have a focus of deep, achy soreness near the base of the neck. This combination of pain in the upper neck, top of the shoulder and tip of the shoulder can lead to chronic aching that leaves the person irritated and exhausted.

How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern

Bob Barr in the classic negotiating lawyer posture from

This problem can feed on itself and become quite chronic when people change their posture to avoid aggravating it on the back of the chair. One client who suffered chronically from this trigger point. He was a negotiator who would tighten his chest and lean onto his elbows at the conference table. Releasing this trigger point directly only offered temporary relief. We had to balance the muscle tension between his chest and back. With regular stretching and bodywork and on his chest, we were able to get lasting relief.

People find that this tight band of muscle is very tender when a seat digs into the mid-back. When the muscle is chilled by a cold stadium seat, the neck and shoulder pain are worse.

There are a number of muscles that can get aggravated by a jerk forward as when you’re holding the leash of a dog that sees a squirrel. When the shoulder is strong, this muscle gets aggravated as it tries to stabilize the shoulder blade.

The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain

The trapezius has three sections that perform different functions. As a whole, it provides movement and stability to float and retract the shoulder blade.

You can read more detail about this in this post about trapezius anatomy.

Getting Relief on Your Own

Clinically Proven
Self-Care Recommendations.

This post has strategies for getting relief on your own. Explore how to change your activities, stretch and other strategies that relieve the pain associated with this trigger point.

Treatment Notes for Therapists

Better Bodywork,
Through Shared Expertise.

This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.

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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