What causes neck and shoulder pain? (2023)

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.

What causes neck and shoulder pain? (1)


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

cervical radiculopathy

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
  • Numbness
  • Weakness
  • 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.

broken collarbone

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.

shoulder bursitis

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.

Bad attitude

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:

  • Rest
  • iceone ofwarm
  • Immobilization, such as a splint or brace
  • painkillers
  • corticosteroid injections
  • Physiotherapy

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.

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