Did you know that muscles are the largest cause of neck and shoulder pain? You have a lot of muscles in your upper body that are capable of causing pain around your neck and shoulder. Here's one:
The levator scapulae muscle is also called the 'shoulder hiker.' It lifts or hikes your shoulder blade. As all muscles do, when it gets unhappy it causes pain. Here's more information.
Trigger points are hyper-irritable areas of muscle that cause pain elsewhere. Sometimes the pain is at a great distance from the trigger point. Trigger points can develop in the shoulder hiker muscle and when they do they cause pain in the neck, upper back and shoulder blade.
If trigger points develop in the levator scapulae here is where it will cause pain:
- Where the muscle is.
- Along the spine side of your shoulder blade (which is also called the scapula) down to the bottom of the scapula.
- At the top back of your arm.
If it always feels like your shoulders are creeping up to your ears, this muscle is the culprit. It may have become shorter because you held your shoulders hiked and the muscle got used to being in that position.
It may also have developed trigger points that need to be released. If you do not release the trigger points you will continue to have pain in your upper back and neck.
How can you help your shoulder hiker muscle relax?
1. You can press into the levator scapulae muscle with your fingers or a massage pressure tool. Press at the crook of your neck where your neck meets your shoulder. Look for very tender areas. The tender areas are where you want to apply pressure. Hold the pressure for about 12 seconds. Also, press where the muscle meets the top of the shoulder blade. Those are the two areas where trigger points are.
2. You can go to a professional massage therapist who can warm and relax the muscle (and others around it) with manual pressure and massage. He or she will work the length of the muscle to help it stretch and settle it down. A trigger point therapist can get rid of the triggers that are causing the pain in your neck and upper back.
3. You can lift your shoulders to your ears. Hike them way up and hold for twenty seconds or so. This will tire the shoulder hiker muscle so it will start to relax. You can do this several times. (But use good sense. Too many times can make the muscles ache from overuse just as any new exercise program can.)
What made your levator scapulae unhappy in the first place?
- Poor posture muscle strain in the shoulder hiker muscle and will cause it to complain. The pain that you feel is actually a complaint; your body is telling you to stop doing something.
- Over-exercising (hiking your shoulders when lifting) or rotating your neck too much from side to side (watching a tennis match) can also cause neck and shoulder pain.
- A car accident can activate trigger points in the levator scapulae and so can walking with a cane that is too tall.
- Carrying a purse or bag with your shoulder hiked up also causes pain in your upper back and neck.
I have heard so many women say, “That feels so much better!” after their neck muscles were treated. Then they hiked their shoulder up to hold their purse. That was exactly the movement that caused their upper back and neck pain in the first place!
Scoliosis can also cause pain in the crook of the neck but that's a different issue. The whole body needs to be addressed in that case to figure out the cause of the scoliosis.
So here, in a nutshell, are the two steps to get rid of the pain in your upper back and neck naturally:
- Relax the shoulder-hiking levator scapulae muscle with massage or pressure.
- Change or stop doing whatever is causing your shoulder hiker muscle (s) to be unhappy.
That is how you can get rid of pain in your neck and upper back when it is caused by the shoulder hiker muscle.