Your Pain Pattern,
What Aggravates It,
The Underlying Anatomy
How to Get Relief,
How People Describe This Pain Pattern
People complain about pain in the upper neck that makes them irritable. As they continue, they often describe that sensation that extends down toward the shoulder as tension instead of pain. At the same time, they describe things that aggravate it but seldom can describe the incident that created the injury. Other trigger points produce pain in that area, so I always ask more questions to narrow it down before I start the physical examination.
People usually don’t complain about this pattern unless there is pressure on their shoulders. And then, it is memorably irritating. Conversely, many trigger points become chronically achy and bother people at rest. Instead, this one seems to be protected by supportive muscles when resting. This trigger point starts bothering you when it gets compressed or stretched.
People with sensory processing disorder seem pleasantly surprised pleased when I ask them if a heavy coat bothers them. They are glad to find someone who understands their sensitivity instead of dismissing it. (This is opposed to the sensory defensive clients that are looking for heavy pressure from clothing to calm them) When the arms are not properly supported, this aggravating tension can be distracting when working d at the computer.
How You Activate and Intensify This Pain Pattern
When asked when it bothers them the most, they may say that it bothers them while carrying a travel bag in each hand. They may also complain that it bothers them while holding their shoulders up to type at a desk that is too high. They may restlessly change hands when holding the top of the steering wheel. Athletes may complain that the neck and shoulders bother them when carrying dumbbells during exercises like lunges.
I’ve experienced this pattern when I carry a child on my shoulders for a while. I also get it when I’m carrying concrete blocks or bales of straw in the yard. In cases like this, the tension is achy and aggravating. The top of the neck gets an achy burn. This trigger point aggravates the sympathetic ganglion so that releasing it gives a great deal of relief from anxiety.
These people, even when they don’t identify as having Sensory Processing Disorder will be unreasonable about not wearing a coat, snug-fitting suit, or backpack. Frustratingly, these items aggravate them in a way that they have trouble explaining.
This trigger point can be chronically aggravated by Forward-Head Posture.
The Musculoskeletal Anatomy Behind Your Pain
Getting Relief on Your Own
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 Massage and Bodywork
Through Shared Expertise.
This post has techniques, tips, treatment routines, and anatomy illustrations to improve the bodyworker’s approach.
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Weekly Featured Post
This patient had recovered from a frozen shoulder but developed shoulder pain at the end of his golf swing. More traditional neuromuscular techniques weren’t working. Chiropractic wasn’t working. Integrative Craniosacral was the right solution for lasting relief.
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.
*This site is undergoing major changes. We are reformatting and expanding the posts to make them easier to read. The result will also be more accessible and will include more patterns with better self-care. In the meanwhile, there may be inconsistency in formatting, content presentation, and readability. Until we get older posts updated, please excuse our mess.