If you have pain in the left side of your upper shoulder and neck, right about where they meet, guess what the cause might be?

Sure it’s muscles, most likely.  But why are they complaining?

1.  Do you type?  Do you sit facing the right while you are at the computer?  The best way is to face the monitor or your material squarely in front of your nose.

2.  Do you always watch the television from an angle?  Or sit in the same corner of the same couch with your head tilted?  How about changing position so you look directly and straight at the television or book?

3.  Do you sleep on your side with your head tilted either up or down?   You can prop your neck and head in a more neutral position to avoid neck muscle strain.

4.  Do you tuck the phone between your shoulder and ear?  That’s hard on your neck muscles!

5.  Are you a new mom always looking down at your beautiful baby while you hold him?  Umm hmm.  Muscle strain.

So any of those positions can strain the muscles on the left (or right) side of your upper shoulder where it joins your neck.  If a muscle area is overstretched it tries to protect itself by going into a type of contraction.  That is a symptom (symptoms are clues.)  And that is what you feel–the strained muscle.

Or if a muscle is held in contraction for a while, it may tend to ‘stay’ there.  And then the symptom (the clue) that you feel is the short, tight muscle.  This is what happens when you hold the phone between your ear and shoulder.  But on the other side of your neck, your muscles are being overstretched so they might also complain!

Massaging or rubbing the painful area or applying ice will usually help but the best strategy is to avoid doing whatever aggravates your neck and shoulder muscles in the first place.

And if you need help to get rid of the pain in the left side of your neck and shoulder most massage therapists would be happy to help. 🙂


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10 Comments on Pain In The Left Side Of Your Upper Shoulder And Neck

  1. chelle belle says:

    I wanted to cry when I read this article! This is EXACTLY where I have had miserable pain for well over a year now! Left side of my upper shoulder and neck… like where they meet. I can take my hand and feel the tight muscle in there. It is soooo miserable. I’ve done everything I know: exercise, stretches, heat, lying on a hard ball, Theraband, minerals, therapeutic massages, chiropractor, muscle relaxants. I can’t get rid of it! I don’t hold the phone with my neck, like you described above, but I do sleep on my right side most of the time. Perhaps this and poor posture are the culprit? From what I can remember, I think I just woke up with it like this one morning. It feels very similar to a “crick” in your neck, but at least those go away. Any more pointers for me??? It just feels nice that someone described my pain! Most grateful….

  2. chelle belle says:

    PS: While looking around at your other articles, I believe I saw where you mentioned that immune disorders can precipitate these muscular problems. Was that on your website? Could you elaborate on that? I am an RN and very interested in the correlation here. I struggle with several immunity related issues and am also on a drug that weakens my immune system. I had no idea that the two could be related. So appreciative….

  3. Hi Chelle,

    You are welcome! It sounds like it’s time to learn to sleep on your back and give your neck and shoulders a break. You could try propping your neck and head more if you want to sleep on your right side so your neck spine will be in line with your back spine. And you could hug your left arm over pillows to keep it from collapsing forward. But sleeping on your back will help.

    Ice is good medicine for muscles on and around the neck. Twenty minutes on and off, on and off. “Digging” into that tight muscle that you feel can help (see more below.) It might be easier for someone else than for you because they will have better leverage. Best would be a massage therapist who has a reputation for working specifically and deeply.

    Our bodies can tolerate a lot for a long time and then muscles start to complain. Sleeping ‘funny’ combined with poor posture and lack of movement could have been the culprit.

    Here’s another thought: Are you right handed? Have the massage therapist relax the muscles on the right side of your torso. I’m thinking the lats, terres and rib muscles and maybe abdomen on the right side are shorter and tighter than your left side. You can stretch these muscles by reaching overhead and stretching toward your left. Stretch the right side 4 times as much as your left. You can stretch the left side–that’s a good thing to do–but stretch the right side 4x as much to cause a change.

    When you sit, sit on your sit bones, flat and level. And work on your posture. It’s easy at http://SimpleStrengthening.com Articles there to help you strengthen your back easily.

    Sounds like you are talking about the trapezius muscle. It prefers being unrolled instead of being pressed into or on. Doing it yourself might feel like you are digging or trying to get under the front edge. But a therapist should unroll it instead of digging. It unrolls from front to back. Ask a therapist if he or she knows how to unroll the trap before you make the appointment. Lots don’t.

    I hope this helps you get rid of the miserable ‘crick’ in your shoulder.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  4. Dear Chelle,

    Can you get your hands on a copy of Travell & Simons Myofascial Trigger Point Manual, Vol. 1, The Upper Body? They were/are MD’s and the front section of the book talks about what causes are behind dysfunctional muscles/muscle activity. It’s a medical volume so may be available where you work or in a medical library. If you have to buy a copy, it is well worth the money (but expensive as books go.)

    I have my own theories about immune disorders. You didn’t ask me but here goes. Perhaps you have a propensity to have a disorder; maybe gramma had it. BUT with proper nutritional care I believe we can support our systems and avoid, prevent or lessen disorders that others in our families have had.

    For instance, my grandmother had severe asthma. So did I. But when I ‘cleaned up my act’–altered my diet, eliminated trigger foods and meds, began supplementing with minerals and vitamins–my asthma went away. Why did she have it? Poor. Poor diet. Trigger foods. I don’t know.

    All I know is that I don’t have it anymore.

    There are 4 minerals that muscles need to be healthy and function best: potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron (iron according to Travell & Simons.) (But iron is added into a lot of processed foods so we don’t want to take too much.) Well, it turns out that magnesium deficiency is pretty common and is related to migraines, asthma, muscle function, etc. It’s pretty important.

    How can you clean up your diet? http://simplepainrelief.com/20.....s-for-you/


    In a nutshell: Eat real. If your grandmother couldn’t grow it or harvest it, don’t eat it. Eat lots of color–fruits & veggies. Shop the perimeter of the supermarket. Only go to inside aisles for canned tomatoes, fish, whole grains and beans. Take a good mineral supplement and vitamin supplement from a health food store. Clay is a mineral supplement that you might find in a health food store. I haven’t tried it yet but will. Mix just a little with water. Toss sugar, flour, fake fats and diet sweeteners. Sea salt has more minerals than table salt. Real butter is real. There are good fats like olive, coconut and avocado. Eggs are health food. Soy isn’t.

    Chelle, thank you for letting me jump up on the diet platform. 🙂 Our bodies don’t want to eat things that ‘taste’ good. They want to eat things that they want, love and need. Phooey on the whole Taste Industry. They are feeding us a bunch of garbage–literally.

    Also, did you know that massage improves the immune system function? It’s good medicine.

    Thank you for writing and inquiring about immune disorders and muscular issues.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  5. chelle belle says:

    Kathryn, THANK YOU so much for taking the time to respond! I so appreciate your input and expertise! I have seen a neuromuscular massage therapist, and I will ask her about “unrolling the trap”! I look forward to diving into the other stretches and information you offered. THANKS for the gift of your time!

    So appreciative!

  6. Hi Chelle,

    You are very welcome. Take good care of you.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  7. Diana says:

    Hi Kathryn,

    I’m a massage therapist and have been working with a client for 12 sessions now. He has severe pain on the upper medial border of the left scapula, along the attachement points and sort of underneath the scapula in that area. I do very slow, very targeted work with him. We work with a pressure scale from 1-10 and communicate through the entire massage. We go over the massage afterward and talk about what he felt like was the most effective, what didn’t seem to work. He gets a lot of relief during the massage and throughout the rest of the day, but the pain returns the next day and gets worse as the day goes on. The only relief he finds on his own, is by laying on his left side or by hanging his head off the bed, experiencing traction. But this relief is only temporary.

    I worked with him 2 years ago where after weekly sessions for 4 1/2 months he was completely pain free for 2 years This time around, there seems to be no improvement from week to week and I’m at a total loss of what to do. He does sit at a desk all day, but he’s a young guy and fairly active. I’ve suggested strength training, but he seems skeptical. Is there more I could be doing on the massage side? I just want to help him!!!

    Thanks so much!

  8. Hi Diana,

    Here are my best long distance thoughts.

    Work around that ‘dragon’ rather than on it. Look to the scalene muscles on that side of his neck. They can cause pain in that area. Do you know how to release the scalenes?

    It is lats or terres on the lateral side under the armpit? Is it subscapula?

    Is it the way he sits or works or sleeps? (Betcha it is.) Is he a sloucher or does he always lean to one side or sleep on one side? What’s his position at work?

    Your strengthening idea is a good one! There is no reason for him to be skeptical. It’s the muscles in the back of his neck and body that should be strengthened, not the chest or abs.

    Have you looked hard at him? Does he have any scoliosis? If he’s got a curving spine, from here I’d be guessing the muscles are tight on the lower left side of his back, below armpit and down. And maybe the QL or spinal erectors are involved on the same side.

    It sounds like you are doing a good job of helping. I appreciate that! Thank you for writing about your client’s scapula pain.

    The Pain Relief Coach

  9. Diana says:

    Thanks so much for your feedback! I’ve addressed the places you mentioned above, but maybe just not enough. His spine is straight, but he is a sloucher so I do work to open his chest. And he sleeps mostly on his left side since he gets most relief from that position. He said that sleeping on his back is uncomfortable so he tries to do it as little as possible. I’ll spend our next session really working around “the dragon” as you call it. I love it! So perfect!

  10. Thank you, Diana. You are welcome. Perhaps he needs a higher pillow to support his head/shoulder better? Imagine you are sleeping in that position. He could be straining the muscles that he’s complaining about? Or aggravating the scalenes.

    Take care and keep up the good work!

    The Pain Relief Coach