We all have it – after sitting at the computer finishing a project, receiving bad news, or just a hard workout, that feeling that the sides of our neck are getting shorter! But it’s not that our neck is getting shorter; instead, our shoulders are tensing, particularly the levator scapulae muscles that attach our shoulder blades to our neck and can cause neck pain.

Our breathing patterns change when we are under stress. Breaths shorten and become more shallow, and rather than breathing from our diaphragm, we begin to breath from our upper chest and shoulders.This places undue stress on those shoulder muscles and quickly tires them to overuse. Test yourself right now: are you tensing your shoulders as you sit at your computer?Can you relax, depress your shoulder blades, release some tension, and breath more into your diaphragm? How does that feel?

This pattern of tension leads to an overdevelopment of the trapezius and levator scapulae muscles and hikes them up to our ears.Bringing conscious awareness to our bodies during our activities can help to decrease tension and keep it away.Put a sign on your computer or work station, or in your car that says, “RELAX”.Eventually, the pattern of relaxation will take over for the pattern of tension!

Keeping the shoulders supple prevents other shoulder problems such as rotator cuff injuries, bursitis, tendonitis, and arthritis from developing.For a Quick-Fix, try this shoulder rolling move from the blog I posted earlier this week. You can see more shoulder exercises in the Yoga Tune Up® Quick Fix Video here. In addition, bring some massage therapy products into your regular routine for neck pain relief. I recommend the Upper Back and Neck Series using the Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls which you can find here.

Learn about our products for shoulder tension.

Make your posture perfect. – Read the article.

Watch our neck pain relief videos on YouTube.

Jeffrey Lang

Jeffrey Lang is a certified Yoga Tune Up® instructor in Northern California. Jeff likes to fill the gap of classical Yoga with modern understanding of anatomical texts, neurology, biology, physiology and psychology in order to help explain and refine our understanding of enlightened states of being and better health. For more about me or to view my Yoga Tune Up® class schedule go here.

Leave a Reply

55 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
54 Comment authors

Shoulder rolling focusing on the rhomboids and the traps has been super helpful for me in relieving tension in the shoulders and neck.

martina sturm

Shoulder problems are never isolated from neck problems because many of the muscles around the shoulders attach at the cervical vertebrae, thus leading to more complex problems. So if your sitting a lot and you neck and shoulders are static, roll out, mover, do what ever you can as often as you can.


Shoulder tension can be such a hard habit to break because it likes to creep into so many of our daily movements. I like your idea of leaving yourself a reminder note on your computer to “relax” – computer time is one of the most important times to relax those shoulders because so many of us tend to be on our computers for the bulk of our days!

Cailyn Edwards

Each desk should come with an alarm and a set of balls. Every 20 minutes get up and roll a part of your body that needs, shake it out and resume working. It blows my mind that so many people go hours and hours without even standing up and so many people live with chronic pain.

Dan Edwards

We all know breathing helps us relax, but sitting here at my desk reading about my shoulders being hiked up and tense I though “no I have good posture” but I took a few deep breaths and they relaxed lot more then I though they would. Having that constant proprioceptive ability makes stress, pain and tension a lot easier to manage and it’s so easy.