Stiff, High Shoulders and Headache

High Shoulders

Do you always have high shoulders? Do your shoulders and trapezius muscles feel tight and do you often get neck pain or tension headaches? If you answered yes, then you are not alone. These are common and classic manifestations of internalized tension and are also typical expressions of mindbody pain syndromes, such as tension myositis syndrome.

Although Dr. John Sarno did fantastic work on TMS, he did not finish necessary research on the condition that is so helpful to clinical care providers who specialize in mindbody pain. We have continued his tradition of exploring the role played by the mind in all matters of health and disease and have used our extensive network of practitioners to further our collective knowledge base on all things related to mindbody health. One of our virtually universal findings in people who suffer from mindbody symptomology is the elevation and tensioning of the shoulders, bringing them upwards towards the ears. What is the relevance of this expressed behavior?

This important dialog explores the occurrence of raised shoulders as a persistent unconscious physical manifestation of tension myositis syndrome, also known as psychological back pain. We will detail how this symptom can play many roles including being a harbinger of pain, a substitute for pain and a simple emotional barometer for enlightened individuals who are already aware of their tendency towards mindbody symptomology.


High Shoulders Defined

When discussing high shoulders, we are not talking about well developed trapezius muscles that naturally rise off the tops of the shoulder anatomy. Instead, we are describing a condition where the shoulders are held high and tight, as an active, yet unconscious activity of the trapezius muscles (and possibly, sternocleidomastoid muscles), which not coincidentally, are muscles that are almost universally involved in tension myositis pain syndromes.

In essence, the person tends to elevate the shoulders through unconscious muscular movement. This expression can be held virtually all the time or only in certain settings. Commonly, we see patterned expression in social situations, when working, when dealing with conscious stress and when actively repressing or suppressing emotional phenomenon, which of course, is virtually never known to the actual patient at the time of occurrence.

Patients may or may not be aware that they carry their shoulders high. Some people may not even know how to relax their shoulders and are almost shocked when a caregiver will force them to relinquish this familiar posture. Others are already suffering pain or fatigue in the trapezius muscles, but simply have no idea that this pain is directly motivated by their tendency to elevate the shoulders over long timelines without conscious intention.


What Causes High Shoulders

Carrying the shoulders high is not usually a conscious choice. It is a physical expression of internal psychological tension caused by repressed and suppressed emotions, thoughts and memories.

Most people are fully aware of the reactions of their body when they are very consciously stressed. People feel tight, tense and uncomfortable, as well as often experiencing various forms of pain, such as stomach upset, headaches, shortness of breath or heart palpitations. However, the majority of psychological stress in peoples’ lives resides far beneath the conscious surface and the horror is that virtually nobody even knows that this stress is there all the time. It is this unconscious and subconscious stress that causes such chronic manifestations as high shoulders, buttocks clenching, jaw clenching and fist clenching, as well as the far more serious expressions of mindbody pain, such as tension myositis syndrome.

The neck is a location that is often prone to physical stress expression. People speak of carrying the weight of the world on their back and then actually go about assuming a posture that mirrors this very sentiment. It is no coincidence.


High Shoulders Are Not Healthy

Elevating the shoulders causes muscular fatigue and can lead to chronic strain, often diagnosed as RSI. Collateral effects can include tension headache, upper back pain, middle back pain and even lumbar pain, since the involved trapezius muscles stretch the entire span from the occiput to the thoracolumbar frontier.

Many patients are diagnosed with muscular imbalances as the source of this expression, which is usually incorrect and unenlightened. Instead, any imbalances that exist are usually consequences of the underlying psychoemotional imperative to lift the shoulders, rather than their actual origin. 

In our vast clinical experience dealing with mindbody health, we find knowledge therapy to be the best course of treatment for not only the raised shoulders, but also the root cause of the symptoms in the mind. We discuss in great detail the relevance of elevated shoulders, as well as other common manifestations of mindbody pain in our celebrated self-help program. We hope that our study of this phenomenon can help you to end your suffering now and forever by making you aware of why the symptom of high shoulders exists and how it can be mitigated using purely psychoemotional practices, rather than drugs, physical therapy, stretches, exercises, injections or surgery.


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