The neck and shoulders are complex and interconnected areashealth problemsthat affect one often affect the other. pain and dysfunctiongrudgeso Conditions affecting joints, muscles, and other structures can easily spread from neck to shoulders and from shoulder to neck.
These parts of the body share bones, muscles, connective tissue, and nerves, which makes it easier to radiate pain throughout the area.
For combination neck and shoulder pain, the underlying causes can be many different things, including some that originate in the neck and others that originate in the shoulders. Some of the most common are:
- cervical radiculopathy
- broken collarbone
- shoulder bursitis
- shoulder blade injury
- Rotator cuff injury
- shoulder compression syndrome
- Soft tissue injury (sprain or strain)
- Bad attitude
One of the most common forms of neck and shoulder pain is cervical radiculopathy,where the pain is due to compression or irritation of the spinal nerve roots (the part where the nerve separates from the spinal cord). These nerves run between the cervical vertebrae, through the shoulder, and down the arm. Symptoms of cervical radiculopathyWith the participation of:
- Sharp pain or tingling in the neck, shoulder, arm and hand
- Sharp or painful neck pain when looking up
- Headache in the back of the head
- weakened reflexes
What is the cervical spine?
Zcervical columnThis is the neck area of the spine. It consists of seven small, highly mobile bones and their associated ligaments, muscles, and shock-absorbing discs.
Anything that aggravates or comes in contact with the spinal nerve roots can lead to radiculopathy, including several common conditions where growths or abnormalities cause the space of the nerve roots to invade.
- Herniated disc: The cushioning discs between the vertebrae may fail and cause bulging and/or fluid leakage.
- synovial cyst: These nodules are caused by the accumulation of synovial fluid that forms the sac.
- Ostroga: An extra piece of bone is formed in response to damage or chronic inflammation.
- Cervical espondilosis (without cartilage inflammation): This condition involves the formation of bone spurs in the neck.
- spinal stenosis: An advanced stage of spondylitis, spinal stenosis occurs when spaces in the spine become narrowed, usually due to excessive bone growth.
- degenerative disc disease(DDD): The discs between the vertebrae erode and wear out over time,which can cause a hernia. In cases of severe degeneration, bone-to-bone contact can cause bone spurs in the joint.
also called oneclavicle fractureThis is a bone fracture that runs from the top of the sternum to the outer end of the shoulder blade. Most clavicle fractures are the result of a fall onto the shoulder alone or landing on an outstretched arm.
In addition to a lot of pain and loss of function in the arm and shoulder, a broken collarbone can cause pain in the soft tissues that extend from the shoulder to the neck.
The bursa is a small sac of fluid in the joints that acts as a shock absorber and prevents excessive friction between bones and soft tissues. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa that can occur as a result of injury, infection, or disease.
shoulder bursitisIt can cause swelling, stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint that can radiate to the neck due to all the usual structures and connections.
Rotator cuff leg
The rotator cuff is made up of muscles and connective tissue around the shoulder. Together they hold the arm at the shoulder joint.
When these muscles and/or tendons are torn, it becomes aRotator cuff legThis may be due to a sports injury or prolonged wear and tear. You will most likely feel pain in your shoulder and possibly your neck as well when you try to move.
shoulder compression syndrome
Torotator cuff injuriesshoulder compression syndromerefers to the pressure of the shoulder tendons on the acromion, a bony protrusion in the shoulder. The muscles and tendons of the rotator cuff are also found in this "subacromial" area.
Compression is done with repetitive overhead movements, such as those used when throwing or swimming. Shoulder impingement can also occur due to an injury or fall, shoulder muscle weakness, or other things.
When the rotator cuff swells, it reduces the space between the soft tissues and the acromion bone, causing more friction. This creates a vicious circle that is difficult to break.
soft tissue damage
soft fabricit includes muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia (a thin layer around muscles, organs, and many other structures). These naturally flexible structures may be involved in bone and joint pain or may be the total cause of pain.
If you have neck pain, your shoulder muscles may lose strength. This, in turn, can lead to a painful shoulder impingement and/or scapula (shoulder) problems.
And vice versa if you haveacromioclavicular joint painFrom your shoulder, which is just above your shoulder, you may feel pain that radiates down your neck.
Along with other types of neck injuries or injuries,whipthis can lead to ligament ruptures or muscle strain.will probably give youpain and limitationboth on the neck and on the shoulder.
Not being able to sit upright, especially sitting at a desk all day, can take a toll on neck and shoulder health. People who sit at a desk all day may be prone to rounded backs (kyphosis) and drooping shoulders.
This, in turn, can lead to a condition calledforward head posture.Thus, the shoulder and neck can conspire to cause muscle strain and weakness, poor posture, and pain.
take pain seriously
Problems with the heart, lungs, abdominal organs, and spinal cord can cause shoulder and sometimes neck pain. Take your symptoms seriously and see your doctor as soon as possible when neck or shoulder pain begins.
If you go to your doctor with complaints of neck and nape painArm painExpect a physical exam that includes neck and shoulder movement so your doctor can see what's causing your pain and measure your range of motion. After that, you may be referred for imaging tests, including:
- x-rays: To observe bones and joints
- Computed tomography (CT): To examine the bone and spinal canal
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): To help identify herniated discs or pinched nerves
- Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies: To identify nerve problems
- Selective nerve root block: To try to locate the source of nervous problems
- myelogram: To see the spinal canal and nerve roots
- dye injection arthrogram: To examine the shoulder joint
- arthroscopy(surgery using a camera): Assess soft tissue damage
Most neck and shoulder injuries are initially treated conservatively. Typical treatments include:
- iceone ofwarm
- Immobilization, such as a splint or brace
- corticosteroid injections
If these methods don't work, some conditions may require surgery. Surgery is more likely if:
- Persistent pain leading to loss of function.
- Neurological symptoms in the arms and legs that get worse
- Trouble walking or keeping your balance
Some injuries, including rotator cuff tears, generally don't benefit as much from conservative treatment, so surgery may be an early recommendation.
Frequently asked questions
What can cause acute neck and shoulder pain when breathing?
A number of conditions can cause neck and/or shoulder pain when taking a deep breath, including:
- pleurisy(swelling of the lining of the lungs and chest cavity): Symptoms include sudden pain in the chest that can only be felt when coughing or taking deep breaths, fever, coughing and shortness of breath.
- pericarditis(inflammation of the sac around the heart): Symptoms include sharp pain in the chest with a sudden onset, possibly shoulder pain, fever, weakness and shortness of breath. It gets worse when you lie down or take a deep breath.
Pleurisy and pericarditis are not usually medical emergencies, but chest pain or shortness of breath should be treated as an emergency until you are sure of the cause.
When to see a doctor
The neck and shoulder are so connected and integrated that almost any cause of pain in one area can cause pain in the other. If neck/shoulder pain is accompanied by worrying symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath or weakness in the limbs, seek medical attention immediately.
If your pain persists, gets worse, or interferes with your sleep or daily activities, talk to your doctor about it. They can help you identify the cause of your pain and find the right treatment so you can maintain or regain your function and quality of life.
Neck and shoulder pain is usually the result of strains and sprains from overexertion or bad posture. Sometimes this pain will go away on its own. Stretching and strengthening exercises can also treat the pain. Sometimes neck and shoulder pain is due to a fracture in the bones of your shoulder.What is the most common cause of neck and shoulder pain? ›
- Muscle strains. Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over a computer or a smartphone, often triggers muscle strains. ...
- Worn joints. As with other joints in the body, neck joints tend to wear with age. ...
- Nerve compression. ...
- Injuries. ...
Call your doctor if you have neck pain that: Worsens in spite of self-care. Persists after several weeks of self-care. Radiates down your arms or legs.What is the best way to treat neck and shoulder pain? ›
Besides taking pain relievers, self-care measures that might relieve neck pain include: Alternate heat and cold. Reduce inflammation by applying cold, such as an ice pack or ice wrapped in a towel, for up to 15 minutes several times a day during the first 48 hours. After that, use heat.What causes neck and shoulder pain without injury? ›
Shoulder pain without apparent injury can be caused by arthritis or a pinched nerve, or it can be caused by an underlying condition that does not directly involve the shoulder. Shoulder pain is any pain in the shoulder area.What are red flags for neck pain? ›
|Symptom or finding||Clinical significance|
|Shock-like paresthesia (Lhermitte's phenomenon) with neck flexion||Suggestive of cervical cord compression or multiple sclerosis|
|Fever or chills||Suggestive of infection|
|History of injection drug use||Raises concern for cervical spine or disc infection|
Common causes include physical strain, poor posture, mental stress, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, herniated disk, pinched nerve, tumors and other health conditions.Can neck pain indicate something serious? ›
Neck pain may be caused by arthritis, disc degeneration, narrowing of the spinal canal, muscle inflammation, strain or trauma. In rare cases, it may be a sign of cancer or meningitis.What does a pinched nerve in the neck feel like? ›
This causes symptoms such as sharp pain in your neck, shoulder, arm, hand, or back. You may also have tingling or numbness. Sometimes it makes your arm weaker. The symptoms may get worse when you turn your head, cough, or sneeze.Can neck and shoulder pain be a symptom of heart problems? ›
Pain in the upper body, including the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw or abdomen, are often warning signs of a heart attack. If the pain is located in the neck, back, jaw, throat or abdomen it may be a sign of heart disease.
It can take four to six weeks to recover fully from mild shoulder pain. There are some things you should and shouldn't do to help ease shoulder pain. See information below for what these include.How should I sleep to fix neck and shoulder pain? ›
What is the best sleeping position for neck pain? Two sleeping positions are easiest on the neck: on your side or on your back. If you sleep on your back, choose a rounded pillow to support the natural curve of your neck, with a flatter pillow cushioning your head.What are red flags for shoulder pain? ›
Urgent if any red flags are identified: Trauma, pain and weakness, or sudden loss of ability to actively raise the arm (with or without trauma): suspect acute rotator cuff tear. Any shoulder mass or swelling: suspect malignancy.Can shoulder pain be a symptom of something else? ›
Shoulder pain may also be caused by: Arthritis in the shoulder joint. Bone spurs in the shoulder area. Bursitis, which is inflammation of a fluid-filled sac (bursa) that normally protects the joint and helps it move smoothly.What kind of doctor should I see for neck and shoulder pain? ›
A pain management specialist can be either a doctor with a specialty in anesthesiology or a physiatrist who specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation. These doctors specialize in the diagnosis and non-surgical treatment of acute and chronic back and neck pain.What are the 5 D's for neck pain? ›
The classic cardinal signs of cervical ischemia, colloquially referred to as the '5Ds and 3 Ns,' also present in the late stage of CAD: diplopia, dizziness, drop attacks, dysarthria, dysphagia, ataxia, nausea, numbness, and nystagmus [19,20].What is the best test for neck pain? ›
Imaging, electromyogram, and nerve conduction tests
Imaging tests can show the neck muscles and tissues. These tests may be done to check the neck bones, spinal discs, spinal nerve roots, and spinal cord. Imaging tests may help especially when: You have signs of nerve damage.
Neurological back and neck pain is pain that affects your nervous system. This type of pain is more than muscle aches, it may be a symptom of a neurological disorder. It's crucial to understand the difference between neurological back and neck pain and normal back and neck pain that can occur in the muscles.Does your neck hurt when your carotid artery is blocked? ›
Your neck may feel tender in the area of the artery. The pain often goes up the neck to the jaw, ear, or forehead. Some diseases can cause carotidynia. Your doctor will check for those.What are the symptoms of a stroke in the neck? ›
Unusual, persistent neck pain
A vertebral artery tear may feel like something sharp is stuck in the base of your skull. If you experience such pain — especially if you also have stroke symptoms such as dizziness, double vision, jerky eye movements, unsteadiness while walking, or slurred speech — call 911 immediately.
Neck stiffness is almost always a temporary symptom of overusing your neck or sleeping in an unusual position. But it can also be a symptom of meningitis, a dangerous infection that needs treatment right away.How do I know if my neck pain is nerve related? ›
When your neck is sore, you may have trouble moving it, especially to one side. Many people describe this as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, such as a muscle spasm pinching on a nerve or a slipped disk pressing on a nerve, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or elsewhere.How do you know if you have a blocked nerve in your neck? ›
Certain neck movements—like extending or straining the neck or turning the head—may increase the pain. Other symptoms include: Tingling or the feeling of "pins and needles" in the fingers or hand. Weakness in the muscles of the arm, shoulder, or hand.How do you tell if it's a pinched nerve or something else? ›
- Sharp pain.
- Burning pain.
- Pain that radiates outward, from one body part to other.
- Decreased sensation.
- A pins-and-needles feeling.
- Feeling like a body part has “fallen asleep”
- Muscle weakness.
For men: Pain will spread to the left shoulder, down the left arm or up to the chin. For women: Pain can be much more subtle. It may travel to the left or right arm, up to the chin, shoulder blades and upper back — or to abdomen (as nausea and/or indigestion and anxiety).What heart problem causes neck pain? ›
Angina chest pain, called an angina event, can happen when your heart is working hard. It can go away when you stop to rest again, or it can happen at rest. This pain can feel like pressure or squeezing in your chest. It also can spread to your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back, just like a heart attack.What is cardiac shoulder pain? ›
Sudden left shoulder pain can sometimes be a sign of a heart attack. Call 911 or your local emergency number if you have sudden pressure or crushing pain in your shoulder, especially if the pain runs from your chest to the left jaw, arm or neck, or occurs with shortness of breath, dizziness, or sweating.What not to do with neck and shoulder pain? ›
- Don't Wait for the Pain to Go Away. ...
- Don't Slouch. ...
- Don't Remain Sedentary. ...
- Don't Use Too Many Pillows. ...
- Don't Rely on Passive Treatments. ...
- Don't Text Excessively.
It's generally recommended to use a pillow if you sleep on your back or side. However, what's most important is that you feel comfortable and pain-free in bed. If you have neck or back pain, or if you have spine condition like scoliosis, sleeping without a pillow may be unsafe.Does sleeping without pillow help neck and shoulder pain? ›
While research is limited, anecdotal reports show that sleeping without a pillow can help reduce neck and back pain for some sleepers. Stomach sleepers are generally best suited for going pillowless, because the lower angle of the neck encourages better spinal alignment in this position.
“While there is no precise reason why shoulder pain can be worse at night, some factors may include direct pressure on your shoulder when laying on your side, overuse during the day, and gravity pulling on your tendons or ligaments in your shoulder as you lay on your back,” said Dr. Elshaar.What is the best painkiller for shoulder pain? ›
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, can relieve shoulder pain by reducing inflammation in the shoulder joint. Ibuprofen and naproxen are two NSAIDs doctors commonly recommend.When should you not ignore shoulder pain? ›
Make an appointment with your doctor if your shoulder pain is accompanied by: Swelling. Redness. Tenderness and warmth around the joint.Does shoulder pain mean heart trouble? ›
There are a few different heart disease-related sources of shoulder pain. The condition most commonly associated is probably a heart attack, but other potential cardiac conditions can also trigger this pain.What organs can cause shoulder pain? ›
Internal Organs: Problems in several internal organs have been known to refer pain to the shoulder. The most common are the diaphragm, liver, gallbladder, heart and lungs. If internal organs are the cause, movements or repositioning of the shoulder will usually not affect the shoulder pain.Can a blocked artery cause shoulder pain? ›
You may feel pressure, tightness, or a squeezing pain in your chest. You may also feel pain in the jaw, neck, shoulders, arms, or back. Women* are more likely than men to feel pain in the arms or back or simply be short of breath.How can I tell if shoulder pain is serious? ›
- Your shoulder joint looks deformed.
- You can't use your shoulder at all.
- The pain is intense.
- The shoulder is swelling suddenly.
- Your arm or hand is weak or numb.
If your neck pain doesn't go away, your doctor will investigate the cause. Serious, long-term neck pain is sometimes treated with steroid injections or, very rarely, surgery.Can shoulder and neck pain be related to heart problems? ›
Pain in the upper body, including the arms, back, shoulders, neck, jaw or abdomen, are often warning signs of a heart attack. If the pain is located in the neck, back, jaw, throat or abdomen it may be a sign of heart disease.How do I know if my neck pain is muscular? ›
Your neck may hurt and feel tight or knotted, and it may be impossible to turn your head. When you wake up with a painful, stiff neck, that's likely a muscle spasm. Muscle spasm can result from a muscle injury, but it may also occur in response to a spinal disc or nerve problem, or even emotional stress.
Neck pain isn't usually related to your heart. But sudden or severe neck pain could be a sign of a heart attack. If you're having a heart attack, you typically experience other symptoms along with neck pain, including: Arm, jaw, shoulder or upper back pain.