Back In Health Massage

Why Anterior Muscle Work is the Key to Effectively Relieving Neck, Shoulder & Upper Back Pain

When you want to completely remove a weed from your garden, you pull it up from the root. You can hack away at the top of the weed all you want, but you know it will always come back until it’s uprooted. And that’s exactly what it’s like when you try to resolve upper back and neck pain by massaging only those parts of the body experiencing the pain. The pain will relieve temporarily but, like the still rooted weed, it will always come back.

To pull the weed out by the root, so to speak, we must massage the anterior (front) muscles of the full chest that actually cause most neck, shoulder and upper back pain, AND the posterior (back) muscles that tell you there's a problem by screaming pain. Massaging both in one session is hands down the most effective way to give you lasting relief from neck, shoulder and upper back pain.

We’ll go into a lot of detail in the paragraphs below for those of you interested in the nitty gritty, but long story short: the pain in your neck, shoulder and upper back is directly related to the muscles in your chest. All those areas work in tandem when you are on your computer, look at your phone, drive, etcetera – basically how most of us spend the majority of our day – and sustained, long-term relief is achieved by massaging your chest as well as the painful areas.

Most neck/upper back/shoulder pain is caused by the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, the two major muscles in the front of your chest that bring your arms together and to the middle of your body. Envision how your arms are positioned when typing, texting and driving. These muscles attach to the front part of the scapula (your shoulder bone).

The oppositional muscles to the pectoralis major and minor are the rhomboid major and rhomboid minor, which are attached on the back side (posterior) of the scapula (shoulder bone) between the shoulder bone and the spinal column. The rhomboids are responsible for pulling your arms and shoulders back – imagine standing and making a “T” with your arms.

The other two muscles involved in most neck/upper back/ shoulder pain are the sternoclavicular mastoid located in the front (anterior) of the neck and the levator scapula in the back (posterior) of the neck. These two muscles are the primary muscles that allow you to rotate your neck and head.

The muscles in the front (anterior) of the body, the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and the sternoclavicular mastoid are generally overly shortened, which is why most people’s shoulders are rounded towards the front and their heads come forward.

On the other hand, the muscles in the back (posterior) of the body, the rhomboid major and minor and levator scapula, are generally over lengthened.


To relieve neck, shoulder and upper back pain and improve the range of motion in the rotation of the neck and head we must first work the overly shortened pectoralis major, pectoralis minor and the sternoclavicular mastoid in the front of the chest and neck so that they will relax and lengthen. This allows the muscles in the back (posterior) that are screaming the neck, shoulder and upper back pain to relax and shorten back to their normal length. When this muscle imbalance is corrected the range of motion is restored back to normal and the pain goes away.

Typical spa massages focus on the painful areas to give you temporary relief, and it does sometimes go away for a few hours, but I guarantee it will always return.

At Back In Health Massage, we work the specific muscles in both the front and back in a specific order that allows increased range of motion which then eliminates pain in the long term.

We are NOT your typical spa massage and that’s why we get the atypical results you will thank us for!


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