Safe & Easy Stretches To Relieve Neck And Shoulder Pain
Understanding Cause, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Neck and Shoulder Pain
Information about shoulder and neck pain. Learn how to diagnose problems and treat them naturally using proven methods.
Every day, millions of people deal with neck and shoulder pain for one reason or another and of varying levels of severity. Even when pain is mild, a person would be well aware and likely experience some difficulty in getting through the day but for severe pain, being completely debilitated is possible. Considering everything neck and shoulder muscles are used for, it is easy to understand why pain in this part of the body can be so hard to live with.
There are multiple reasons that neck and shoulder pain develop and while most are not serious, this type of pain could be an indicator of something more sinister. For this reason, if a person began to feel neck and shoulder pain for no apparent reason, if pain worsened even after treatment, or if other symptoms were to develop, seeking medical attention would be mandatory.
Because neck and shoulder pain is such a prevalent issue, we wanted to provide insight into reasons this would occur but along with this, we felt it would be helpful to offer information pertaining to some of the more effective treatments for getting relief. Of course, neck pain and shoulder pain are not always synonymous with one another but it is common for a person to feel pain in both regions of the body simultaneously.
Unique Pain to the Neck and Shoulder
While neck and shoulder pain could be the result of the same thing, there are times when a person would experience neck pain for one reason and shoulder pain for an entirely different reason. Therefore, we first wanted to offer information pertaining to the pain felt separately for the neck and shoulder. However, following this section, additional information is provided about neck and shoulder pain experienced simultaneously.
Neck Pain – Most people give little thought to the importance of the neck and considering all the work it does, pain would be expected from time to time. The degree of mobility for the neck is significant and because of this, it is not overly stable. This is why neck injuries happen all too often. A perfect example of this is whiplash, which typically occurs when the head is forced forward and then snapped back after being rear-ended in a car accident.
Common causes include:
- Bone and/or joint abnormality
- Degenerative disease
- Poor posture
- Strain or damage to ligaments, muscles, and tendons
Shoulder Pain – Just like the neck, the shoulders offer a person significant mobility, which equates to poor stability. This is why the shoulders are more susceptible to injury than most other parts of the body.
The most common reasons a person would develop pain in the shoulders are provided below:
- Bone fractures of the upper arm or collar
- “Frozen” shoulder
- Joint instability
- Overexertion strain
- Radiculopathy (pinched nerve)
Causes of Both Neck and Shoulder Pain
Some of the reasons a person feels pain in the neck or shoulder as separate parts of the body are the same reasons that neck and shoulder pain would be felt together. For example, degenerative disease, specifical arthritis in the cervical spine, injury to soft tissue to include ligaments, muscles, and tendons, bone fracture, and Radiculopathy or pinched nerves are things shared.
Along with the more common causes of neck and shoulder pain, there are a few rare conditions involving abdominal organs, the spinal cord, heart, and lungs that could be the culprit.
Below are specific reasons that neck and shoulder pain would be felt together:
- A-C Separation – Ligaments hold the collarbone and shoulder blade together but when the shoulder is traumatized, they can stretch or actually tear, leading to both neck and shoulder pain
- Broken Bones – We wanted to mention two examples of broken bones that lead to neck and shoulder pain to include a broken collarbone and shoulder blade. When the collarbone breaks, usually associated with a fall, pain radiates from the neck down to one or both shoulders. Now, it takes a tremendous amount of force to break a shoulder blade so having neck and shoulder pain that may or may not radiate to the arms and back would be expected.
- Bursitis – In normal conditions, joints and muscles are cushioned with a sac called the bursa. However, if a person experiences injury or trauma, this sac can stiffen, swell, and become painful
- Rotator Cuff – Another reason a person would feel both neck and shoulder pain has to do with an injury to the rotator cuff, tendons that provide the shoulder with support. Unfortunately, repetitive motion associated with sports and injury connected to weightlifting can cause the rotator cuff to be injured. Not only would an injury such as this be painful, it would cause a person to lose significant range of motion known as “frozen shoulder”.
- Tendonitis – Muscles are held firmly to bones with tendons but when they become strained, swelling and pain would occur, leading to a condition known as tendonitis
- More Serious Causes – As mentioned, there are times when something much more serious is causing the pain, which is why the onset of pain for no apparent reason, worsening pain after treatment, or if additional or odd symptoms developed, medical attention is needed. The two most serious possibilities include:
- Gallbladder Disease – Typically, the degree of pain felt in the neck region with this disease is minimal, as well as pain in the left shoulder but referred pain would be significant in the right shoulder.
- Heart Attack – Most people believe pain associated with a heart attack is felt in the chest but in truth, neck and shoulder pain are more common. This type of pain is called “referred pain” and something that should never be ignored.
Importance of Proper Diagnosis For Neck And Shoulder Pain
Even if a person believes that neck and shoulder pain is associated with strain or perhaps minor injury, getting a proper diagnosis is imperative. For one thing, there would be no question as to the exact reason for the pain, putting the person’s mind at ease but also making it possible to get the right treatment. As the old saying goes, “Better safe than sorry”.
If neck and shoulder pain were found to be nothing serious, the individual could go with self-care at home but if a diagnosis of something more serious were made, the doctor would have the opportunity to recommend the most appropriate treatment.
Of course, for a firm diagnosis to be made, specific testing would be required with options listed below is among the most common.
CT Scan – Also referred to as a CAT Scan or Myelography, this special type of x-ray is similar to an MRI, capable of showing signs of soft tissue damage among other things
Electrodiagnostic Study – The two studies used most often when diagnosing neck and shoulder pain is the Electromyography, otherwise known as an EMG and Nerve Conduction Velocity or NCV. With this, a very small needle is inserted into areas of the neck and shoulder where nerve endings are found, followed by a very slight amount of electricity to detect issues pertaining to nerves.
MRI – With a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test or MRI, things not revealed with a standard x-ray would be clearly seen such as pinched nerves or other nerve related trauma or damage
X-Ray – While soft tissue damage would not show up on the standard x-ray, other reasons for neck and shoulder pain would include bone fractures, degenerative disease, spinal stenosis, which is narrowing of disc space, lesions, rheumatologic disease, and many others.
How To Relieve Neck And Shoulder Pain
The exact treatment plan for neck and shoulder pain would depend on:
- the exact cause,
- the severity of the problem,
- the degree of involvement for both neck and shoulder,
- and the person’s overall health,
- as well as any additional health problems identified.
Even the way in which an individual responds would determine the most effective and safest method for treating the pain of this kind.
Typically, a doctor would be able to devise a plan that would offer the individual with relief relatively fast. However, there are times when chronic neck and shoulder pain would require long-term care, usually supervised by a pain management doctor. Of course, if treatment involved any kind of surgery, it would be expected for a person to go through a period of healing, with the length being based on several factors.
Just a few examples of how neck and shoulder pain are treated have been provided below but again, the best option is usually to be seen by a qualified medical doctor so the best treatment could be determined based on the confirmed diagnosis.
Soft Tissue Injury – For ligaments, muscles, and tendons that have become strained or damaged, anti-inflammatory and over-the-counter pain medication are usually best. However, many doctors will also recommend that ice or moist heat be applied to the affected areas of the body several times a day.
Inflammation – For neck and shoulder pain caused by bursitis, tendonitis, or arthritis, corticosteroid injections are often used. Although it could take several injections before getting the relief needed, with this, both inflammation and pain would decrease.
Exercise – Anytime a problem with the spinal cord or nerves are the reason for pain, exercise is highly beneficial.
Summary On Neck And Shoulder Pain
Living with neck and shoulder pain of any kind or level of severity is rough. These two parts of the body are used for hundreds of reasons every day, many without a person even being aware until pain sets in. Although frustrating and perhaps even frightening for some individuals, it is important to know that there are multiple diagnostic tests and treatments available today specific to neck and shoulder pain that was not offered only a few years ago.
Because of this, making the effort to be seen by a doctor so something serious could be ruled out should be a serious consideration. Remember, many times pain of this type is not serious and easily treated at home with over-the-counter products or medication, as well as home remedies or good old-fashioned R&R.