Shoulders are right up there with necks when it comes to where we hold our tension. In fact, some people are one big block of pain from shoulder blades to skull. Most people hold their most negative thought in the muscles and tissue between their shoulder blades, so this part of the body is extremely vulnerable to stress, tension and pain.
Let's talk about adrenalin for a moment. Whenever our bodies go into "stress mode," our adrenal glands release adrenalin into our bloodstream. Adrenalin is one of the most caustic chemicals produced in the body and it is meant to be used and then discarded through respiration. When we overproduce adrenalin (i.e., when we are under stress all the time) or when it hangs around too long in our blood, it has effects such as suppressing the immune system, interfering with digestion and decreasing blood supply to the skin and certain muscles.
When negative thoughts and/or emotional trauma are held in muscle tissue it contracts, and blood flow decreases. Poor blood flow causes adrenalin to build up in muscles and causes partial atrophy of the muscle tissue, which contracts further. A nasty repetitive cycle now takes place as the muscle becomes more rigid and painful. The icing on the cake is that when you go into "stress response" you probably hold your breath, further decreasing your body's ability to burn off the adrenalin.
In addition to your most negative thought, many people also hold their beliefs about obligation in their shoulders. Are you a "should-er?" Are a lot of your thoughts centered on "I have to?" This leads to your thoughts about choice -- how familiar is it to believe you have no choice? These few words and thoughts produce crippling results for so many people, especially women. Do you feel you are totally stuck in obligation and lack of choice? How about guilt? Sometimes when you decide you're not going to take it anymore and just say "No" it creates a feeling of guilt that is often felt right in the middle of the back. You may feel like your body is divided into two halves, upper and lower, with a painful hinge in the middle.
Shoulders also often hold thoughts about receiving -- is it safe, is it acceptable, is it selfish? Those who are poor receivers are usually called "control freaks" because they are trying to control their environment by keeping everything away. This typically is the result of lots of negative receiving as a child in the form of abuse (both verbal and physical) and chaos in their homes (big families, substance abuse, moving from place to place.) A child may make a decision to stop receiving, keeping everything away, in attempt to control their immediate environment. As adults, receiving means losing control and brings up fear, sadness and resentment.
Offshoots of control and receiving issues include beliefs about getting what you want. The conflict between getting what you deserve versus receiving what you desire can cause intense physical effects. Do you measure what you do in order to afford what you deserve? Is your ability to to enjoy yourself in direct proportion to what you produce? Do you have to struggle and suffer to have fun? Do you feel guilty if something is too easy? If you receive more than you give are you uncomfortable? Do you trust simplicity?
If you're like most people, you have come to the end of this post hunching your shoulders and holding your breath. You didn't even notice it, did you? Relax your spine, let your shoulders drop and take a deep breath. Exhale. Your homework assignment is to go through an entire day without telling yourself "I have to." This is mandatory. You have to!