Neck and Shoulder Pain

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By Stan Andrzejewski • August 16th, 2007 • 31571 Views

Neck and Shoulder Pain

The following Yoga Anatomy article is an in-depth analysis of how improper spinal alignment and lack of awareness to the scapular region leads to chronic neck and shoulder pain. This article offers guidance in applying correctional cues in your Yoga Class to reduce and/ or eliminate these chronic conditions.

Hatha Yoga as Physical Therapy for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Forward head posture is very common today. We are so visually oriented. As we focus on all the visual stimuli in our world, we lean forward into it, as if we are pulled into it. Whether standing or sitting, we collapse our heads forward on top of our dull spines. The epitome is the forward head on top of the infamous dowager hump and the stiff, puffy seventh cervical vertebra.

We have to hold our forward heads up by chronically tensing the elevator scapula and upper Trapezius muscles. It stands to reason that we would then have a prevalence of soft tissue pain along the occipital ridge, sides of neck, and the top of the shoulder blades. These are phasic muscles not designed for sustained postural work.

Forward head posture is responsible in part for a relative inflexibility in our cervical spines. The muscular tension of the occipital ridge restricts the movement of the upper cervical vertebrae. A stiff thoracic spine influences the lower cervical spine to be hypo-mobile also. Therefore we tend to move excessively in the mid cervical spine. This tends to wear down the facets and disks leading to cervical spondylosis and cervical disk degeneration. There is abnormal mechanical movement stress to these structures since the upper and lower cervical vertebrae do not contribute enough to the overall movement of the neck. Put this on top of a thoracic spine that does not move enough, and the mid cervical spine is left alone with the lowest lumbar spine to account for the majority of the total spinal movement.

Some will elevate their arm overhead, only to impinge their shoulder. The shoulder blades are poorly stabilized against the rib cage of this unskillful spine. The rotator cuff muscles cannot effectively cinch the head of the humerus inferiorly to avoid impingement. As the humerus rolls upwards within the glenoid fossa, it must glide downward in the opposite direction to avoid compressing the rotator cuff against the acromioclavicular shelf....


Stan Andrzejewski

Location:  Baltimore, US

STAN ANDRZEJEWSKI is the founder of Greater Baltimore Yoga. He was certified in the Iyengar tradition in 1988 while a student of John Schumacher, but now considers Victor van Kooten as his main inspiration. He integrates 34...