Persistent neck pain has become increasingly common in modern society as many of us are spending more time in front of a computer. Typically neck pain, as with most musculoskeletal pain will improve with time; however, the chances of reoccurrence are high if the cause of the pain is not identified. As the frequency of reoccurrence increases, the pain that once lasted no longer than a few hours becomes an unrelenting pain that has lasted over a year.

Faulty alignment of the shoulder girdle (collar bone and shoulder blade) is often noted as a contributing factor to persistent neck pain. Most often, the shoulder blades are positioned too low, which then causes muscles that attach from the shoulder blades to the cervical vertebrae to pull downward on the spine. Typically, individuals will feel a diffuse, tight sensation that radiates from the outside of the neck to the upper shoulder region. Due to the tight sensation, most individuals are tempted to stretch the muscles, which needless to say is a very bad idea. In effect, the individual is stretching an already stretched muscle, which if continued would lead to a muscle strain. Overtime, the intensity and frequency of the pain would increase as stretching has only exacerbated the problem.

How do you fix this?
The solution is quite simple and effective- decrease cervical spine compression by passively elevating the shoulder girdle to the optimal height. This is accomplished with a variety of functional modifications that can be incorporated in the individuals day to day activities.

What causes this?
Many times structural variations predispose an individual to developing a lowered alignment of the shoulder blade(s). These variations include: Long neck or torso, long/heavy arms, short arms, and large breasts. Other times, that cause is due to poor postural awareness during certain activities to include: Carrying a heavy purse, carrying a heavy backpack, or poor technique during certain weight lifting exercises.

If I’m structurally predisposed to developing this alignment, can I still get better?
Absolutely. Functional modifications are made on an individual basis with all contributing factors taken into consideration.

How long does it take to get better?
Following compliance of functional modifications, the muscle(s) should return to the optimal length within 4 to 6 weeks.

Can this lowered alignment of the shoulder blade(s) be contributing to my shoulder pain?
Absolutely. It is commonly found that those individuals with neck pain also have shoulder pain…More on this on the next blog post.

By: Joe Elliott PT,DPT