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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How does the shoulder girdle influence neck pain?

    My chiropractor keeps telling me that much of the pain I feel in my neck is because of my shoulder girdle. Why is this?
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 5


    Neil Synnott

    Exercise Physiologist, Physiotherapist

    I am qualified as a PHYSIOTHERAPIST and ACCREDITED EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST.I primarily use the McKENZIE METHOD for assessment and management of musculoskeletal pain disorders. The McKENZIE … View Profile


    I practice as a physiotherapist. I agree with your chiropractor that neck pain can be influenced by the shoulder girdle.

    Your shoulder (including the scapula and humerus) essentially hangs from your neck by muscles. The only joint articulation to the skeleton is the sternoclavicular joint (either side at the base of your throat). So the muscles around your shoulder can be very important in neck pain!

    Key muscles that support and control the shoulder (especially the scapula) are the trapezius, levator scapula, the rhomboids, serratus anterior and to a lesser extent the rotator cuff. If these muscles are weak and smaller in bulk, they will likely tire quickly and become tight and be part of producing pain.

    Given time - let's say a few years - of having poor shoulder posture from weak and smaller shoulder muscles, the resting position of the scapula can be a very significant contributor to neck pain. If the posture set and pain have been around for a while, we call this a chronic problem, loosening the shoulder muscles with massage and dry needling (acupunture), re-training posture (awareness/concentration od body position) and conditioning the shoulder muscles with exercise can take a while to recover.

    So it is best to be proactive with managing you neck pain by monitoring your whole body and shoulder girdle posture as well as maintaining good muscular endurance and strength of your shoulder girdle muscles.

    Physiotherapists and accredited exercise physiologists are experts in exercise prescription. So please consult either of these professionals as needed.

    Regards, Neil


  • 1


    Special interest include; Wellnes,nutrition, physical exercise, headaches and sports injuries. My aim is to improve the wellness and health of all my clients. View Profile

    What Neil said is totally correct. When ever me move our limbs (legs and arms) the muscles and joints of the spine act to stabilize our body so we dont fall over. Poor mechanics or movement patterns can place increase strain on the spine structures creating pain and stiffness. As mentioned above stabilizing muscles of the shoulder attach onto the spine and neck. hypertonicity (muscle spasm) of these muslce will create pain over areas which lie over or near the neck, giving you the sensation that the pain or stiffness is neck related. Releasing these muslces will cause short term relief but to actually correct or fix the problem the shoulder will need to be addressed.

  • 1


    Dr Peter Dun


    Rehab - Sports - X-Ray - Standing MRI - Second Opinions. We provide strategies for chronic and more complex function problems to help restore active … View Profile

    I’d like to add that some shoulder girdle and neck muscles can have certain tendencies – to being overactive and thus tight or underactive and thus weaker than ideal.  This type of muscle imbalance tendency, which can be traced back to baby posture and movement development problems, is not helped by the all-too-common relatively sedentary lifestyles in developed countries.  Neck pain is a common symptom of these muscle imbalances.  If imbalances such as these aren’t properly addressed, this can result in ongoing or recurring symptoms.  It is not enough to just look at the painful area only; we need to zoom-out and focus on other areas related to the neck.  In order for humans to be able to properly perform a variety of lower level to higher level postures and movements in their work, sport and leisure activities, structures such as muscles, ligaments, joints, discs need to ‘do their job’ in just the right way at the right time.   
    Sports/rehabilitation chiropractors are skilled in dealing with these types of problems.

  • 2


    Dr Ryan Hislop


    Ryan Hislop is the Clinical Director at the Mudgee Chiropractic Health and Wellness Centre. As an experienced and evidence-based diagnostician, Ryan works largely by medical … View Profile

    This is a fairly common thing that we see in our practice. I often explain that the neck is a bit like the mast on a ship, and the shoulder is like the sail. The muscles that join the sail to the mast are a bit like all those strong tight ropes. If the sail is getting blown on one side constantly, or the mast isn't quite working the way it is, you get dysfunction.. which leads to issues down the track… In the case of being a human, this response is often pain.

    Not really a boat sorta person, but hope this makes sense.

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