Neck and Shoulder Pain – Santa Rosa, CA

Why do I have Pain in my Neck/Shoulder?

There are a few muscles that attach to both the spine and the scapula, but by far the most problematic related to neck pain is the levator scapula. I see this muscle causing problems, in varying degrees of severity, with nearly every client that walks in the door. For some, the muscle is very tight but not painful. For others it is very painful. Why does this happen? If I had to bet, I would put all my chips on stress & computer use.

Sometimes this pain pattern gets referred to the face, and will look like this:



Modern life is extremely stressful in comparison with where we evolved from. This may seem counterintuitive – we live longer and have fewer threats to our safety. However modern life places constant small stresses vs. occasional acute stressors that our ancestors faced. Our body’s stress response from an angry or urgent email is identical to a caveman facing a mountain lion, though less intensity. If both happened once, obviously the encounter with the mountain lion would have a much more profound effect on the body than the urgent email. However multiply that email several times a day, add in other stressful events and news media scare tactics and we can quickly see that the total stress we incur is much higher. Not to mention that encountering a mountain lion is immediately followed by intense physical exercise, whereas an urgent email at your desk is followed by continuing to sit at your desk…which leads me into my next point.

Computer & Phone Use

Poor posture at the computer/phone places an enormous load on the levator scapula. The human head is rather heavy, and acting across the long lever arm that is the neck, the forces on the levator scapula to keep the head upright can be enormous.


We know from the law of repititive motion (insult = (number-of-reps*force)/(amplititude*rest)) that this position with it’s high force, low amplitude and low rest are a recipe for high insult to the muscle. As we know from the model for cumulative trauma disorders – this leads to adhesions, fibrosis, and inflammation in the local area, and also eventually, weakness in the muscle itself. Weakness that can then contribute to pain elsewhere in the body as compensation patterns set in.


Fibrosis in the levator scapula can be solved in about 5 minutes of targeted ART work. The remainder of the session can be used to eliminate the related compensation patterns, and teaching at-home care methods for keeping the levator scapula healthy. A cortisone injection in this area will reduce the inflammation, but will not address the underlying structural problem in the muscle itself. Furthermore cortisone injections compromise connective tissue strength – which is the last thing we want. We want the levator scapula to be STRONG and HEALTHY so it can continue to hold your head up so that when you choose to use terrible posture at the computer you CAN – but hopefully you choose not to.

Be pain free, move easier, and perform better. Contact me here to set up an appointment.