Self Assessment 101

Are Your Shoulder Mechanics Hurting Your Neck?

Shoulder and neck pain usually appear as a team because of all the muscles that attach to both. Just take a look at an anatomy book, and you’ll quickly realize how intimately connected the two are, which is why why careful attention to both are necessary for complete resolution.  Granted, these are not the only two body parts to pay attention to.  In the last blog about shoulder pain (which you can view here) I discussed ways to improve scapular stability and thoracic mobility to help with resolution of shoulder pain as well.

The drill that is described in this blog is fantastic for a number of reasons.  First, when performing this drill, you’ll get immediate feedback to whether or not you are using the correct muscles when performing a push or pull.  This is maybe the most important step because you’ll never fully recover from a shoulder injury if you continue to use poor mechanics in your everyday activities.  

If someone has a “shrugged shoulder”, or their shoulders are always in their ears when lifting, carrying, pushing, or pulling any amount of weight, they will always be at risk.  So to find out if you are doing this, perform the following drill.

First, perform the 6 neck range of motions: Rotation right and left, Lateral Flexion right and left, Flexion, and Extension.  Make a mental note of where you feel tension and in what range you feel tension.

Next, get a weight (I prefer kettlebells but a dumbbell or backpack do just fine) and get it into a front rack position.  This means the elbow is completely flexed with the elbow tucked into your side.  The weight should be heavy enough that it requires moderate muscle tension to hold there. Now, perform the same 6 neck ranges of motion.  If they feel ANY difference in stiffness, you are using the wrong muscles to support this shoulder position.

Next, use this same weight (or again, resistance bands, barbell, dumbbell, etc), and hold the end row position.  Meaning in a seated or bent over position, pull the weight towards the belly button and hold that position.  Perform the 6 motions and note any extra tension. 

Lastly, perform this same drill in a plank/push up position.  Again, you shouldn’t feel any extra tension in the neck compared to the motion felt when holding no weight.

IF you do feel extra tension in any of these positions, work on setting the shoulder in a strong, stable position and this should decrease that tension.  If there is still tightness, comfortably increase that range of motion by going through the tight motion repeatedly until the tension relaxes. 

By teaching yourself how to perform these movements without tension in the neck, you will greatly reduce your risk of future shoulder injuries and improve your chances of recovering from a current shoulder problem.

Check out the video here to see step by step how to perform this drill.

For more information on Chiropractic treatment, education on Body Maintenance techniques, or coaching for sustainable exercise programs visit or call the office 931-321-1414 to schedule your FREE consultation with Dr. Dunaway.