Neck to Shoulder, Shoulder to Neck


Sitting at a jazz show Saturday night, one of the best I’ve seen in some time, I found myself reaching my hands back to the base of my neck into shoulders, trying to comfort the area; that C7/T1 zone, where the cervical vertebrae transition into thoracic vertebrae.  If a stellar jazz performance can’t distract me from muscular tension, I know I’ll be working on the spot later, just like I do so often with clients. What a great area to give focus to! The trick is not to over-do the work and make the area weaker compared to its anterior counterpart, since most of us are posturally flexed forward more with over-lengthened, weaker back muscles trying to counter-balance.

I like to address the tighter side first, sinking fingers gently into the tissue of the C7/T1 vertebrae area. Staying focused on this small zone, feeling what the tissue quality is like, exploring it from its start alongside the vertebrae to just about an inch or less out laterally, and in a superior/inferior direction. Moving fingers up, down, and out from the spine, it challenges the tissues to open up in different directions, breaking down adhesions, warming hypertonicity out of the area.The focus feels wonderful to receive and to give. Just in being attentive and patient, relaxation and movement can happen. So often in life, we don’t feel like we get the attention we desire, whether it’s in being heard, recognized, or understood. Receiving this honed in attention on a troubled area is a wonderful balm to the physical body and to other layers of who we are as people.

Taking a moment to look up some anatomical charts and apps, it’s fun to explore the layers of muscles attaching in and around the lower cervicals and upper thoracic vertebrae. Trapezius, splenius capitus and cervicis, rhomboid minor and major, semispinalis cervicis and thoracis, multifidus, spinalis cervicis and thoracis, all layering over each other and inserting into the area. Given this amount of pull from so many head, neck, and upper back muscles, that junction is usually crying out for relief. In ending, it’s good to do broader, lighter sweeps away from the area, carrying it through the surrounding musculature. The last complement to this work would be to do some work opening the anterior upper torso. As in life, balance is often everything. To over-do in one area while disregarding another can create other problems; again, analogous to life. Go in with a plan, see what you find, adjust the plan as needed, and keep the intention clear: supporting a harmonious system, in body and in spirit of life.


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016



I have been licensed and working full time in the massage therapy field since 2001, teaching and writing MT courses since 2006. My experience has led me through working with several different chiropractors, hotel and boutique spas, corporate massage, a climbing gym wellness center, private practice, two different massage schools, one acupuncture/massage college, and my current capacity of working with physical therapy clinics and their patients. And the learning continues…

2 thoughts on “Neck to Shoulder, Shoulder to Neck

  1. I will never have the expertise to “address the tighter side first, sinking fingers gently into the tissue of the C7/T1 vertebrae area.” But I loved the parallels you drew between tending to our bodies and tending to our larger lives. During this hectic season, thank you for the reminder that balance is often everything. And happy holidays to you, Lara!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heather “)! Thank you so much for this kind message – more than appreciate! I’m trying to make the blog both useful to people in my field and applicable in a larger sense to how we all “feel” things; using the body and bodywork as a vehicle for the latter goal. I enjoy your writing and communication style greatly, so your compliment means a lot 😉 Happy Holidays to you:)!


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