Tight shoulders – especially along the trapezius muscle group that starts at the neck and extends to the middle of the back – carry more tension than anywhere else in the body. And while your shoulder tension is often linked to stress, that’s only a small piece of the puzzle.
According to Darragh Dunleavy of Trinity Wellness in Charleston, SC, your tight shoulders and stiff neck can tell you something on a physical, energetic, and emotional level. For those of you with chronic tension in this part of your body, it might be time to make some changes.
Shoulder Pain and a Stiff Neck: The Physical Causes
Dunleavy says that in her 26 years of bodywork experience and more than a decade of teaching yoga, she has found shoulder pain and tension to be the most common complaint among her clients. She claims that a lot of the tension comes from our lifestyle habits, like sitting at our desks all day, scrolling through our smartphones, driving, and even the way we sleep.
“We sit too often and a lot of us have bad posture,” says Dunleavy. “The head protrudes forward and the spine falls over. And since we do it so often, we think the tension is normal, but not. “
The emotional and energetic side of shoulder tension
According to Dunleavy, the mind-body connection is real, and for those of us who ignore it, stress can have dire consequences. If you have chronic shoulder pain and a stiff neck, your stress is likely more than just a hard day’s work.
1. Carrying the weight of the world
This is not just a saying, it is the truth. Shoulder tension often increases with age because we tend to have more responsibility as we get older. Whether it is about becoming a parent or having all of the worries that come with the peak of your career, we have too much to do. Financial difficulties or just the stress of keeping up with your neighbor can also take a toll.
2. Change of roles
Dunleavy says that because of our changing roles in society, her clients have increased physical tension in their necks, shoulders, and even lower back. Women bear both the responsibility of motherhood and that of financial service providers. Our increasing role at work, while still being the primary caregiver for children, means that many of us don’t have enough time to be self-sufficient because we don’t have a moment to ourselves.
3. An inability to let go
On an energetic level, the shoulders are connected to the fifth chakra, says Dunleavy. Tension in the shoulders can mean that we have an imbalance in this energy center caused by the inability to let go or to forgive. This overly critical behavior can also be directed towards oneself.
4. Negative conversation
The fifth chakra is also the throat chakra. An imbalance in this energy center can mean that you are having trouble saying what you mean or what you are saying. You may be suppressing your truth or your words are full of negativity. Do you speak badly to or about others? Do you say things that you later regret? This can create an imbalance in that part of the body, which can lead to physical tension, says Dunleavy.
4 yoga poses to reduce shoulder tension
Yoga is a remedy for shoulder pain. When used regularly, it can relieve your tension.
1. Rag doll
- Stand with your feet hip-length apart.
- Fold forward and create a slight bend at the knee.
- Grasp your hands behind your back and let go of your shoulders with the weight of gravity.
- If this is too difficult, fold over and grab your opposite elbows.
- Hang your head up like a rag doll and your neck will elongate with the weight of gravity.
2. Eagle pose
- Start with your feet hip-length apart.
- Bend your knees. Balance on your right foot and cross your left thigh over your right thigh.
- Hook your left foot behind your right calf.
- Bring your left arm under your right and bend at the elbow.
- Raise your forearms towards the ceiling. Your eyes should be on the clasp of your hands.
- Keep lifting your shoulders to straighten your back body. Switch sides.
3. Seated shoulder rolls and neck extensions
Daily shoulder rolls bring movement to this part of the body instead of allowing stagnant energy to pool and create tension.
- When you are at your desk, take a few minutes each day to move your shoulders towards your ears and then down your back.
- Put your right hand on top of your head and gently drop your head onto your right side, straightening the side of your neck. Switch sides.
4. Restorative yoga
Restorative yoga in general is an excellent way to relieve accumulated tension. Just lying around on props can be of great help rather than doing power yoga or faster forms of practice.
More tips for relieving shoulder tension
In addition to daily stretching and yoga, self-care is one of the most important tips for relieving shoulder tension.
This is the term Dunleavy uses to describe what they think is one of the most effective tools for relieving built-up tension in the body. Take off your shoes in the garden, walk barefoot on the beach or take a meditative stroll through the forest. Grounding in the earth is one of the best ways to slow down the body’s energy and bring it back into balance.
Singing works to rebalance the throat chakra. Attend a kirtan meeting. Kirtan is a call and answer chant that is often done in yoga studios. If this makes you feel uncomfortable, listen to kirtan music at home and sing along. I am a big fan of Krishna Das.
3. Get body work
Regular body work or massage is one of the best ways to permanently remove shoulder tension and prevent it from building up again.
Editor’s Tips: Treat Your Mind, Body, and Spirit
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