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Could Your Shoulder Pain Be Related to Neck Issues?

If you’ve been experiencing shoulder pain you may be surprised to learn that the problem may not be in your shoulder. Oftentimes shoulder pain is related to neck problems.

could shoulder pain be related to neck issues

A Quick Anatomy Review

Before we review some of the neck conditions that can lead to shoulder pain, let’s do a real quick review of the anatomy of the neck.

Cervical Region of the Spine

The portion of your backbone that runs from the base of your skull through your neck is called the cervical spine. You may be thinking that a problem in this area of the spine would lead to neck pain, but that’s not always the case.

Spinal Nerves

One of the functions of the spine is to protect the network of nerves that run through it. These nerves are the main form of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. Think of them like telephone lines. They carry information from our brain to the rest of the body. For example, when we want to move our leg, our brain sends a message through the nerves to the leg muscles, telling them to move. Nerves carry information in both directions, meaning they also relay information from the body back to the brain. For example, if we burn our finger, nerve endings in our finger sense it and send a message back up the nerves to the brain. Our brain then interprets this feeling as pain.

Cervical Nerves

The nerves that are responsible for communication between the arms and brain travel from the brain through the spinal cord and exit the spinal cord at the base of the neck. Problems relating to the vertebrae and discs in this area of the spine can cause unusual pressure on the cervical nerves.

Pinched Nerve in Neck

When cervical nerves become irritated we often refer to this as having “a pinched nerve in the neck”. A more technical name for it is cervical radiculopathy. In essence, it just means that the nerves exiting the spinal cord in the neck are irritated and causing discomfort. The nerve irritation can be caused by many things such as poor posture, aging, or injury. However, because these nerves travel through the shoulders to the arms, the irritation can cause pain that radiates down to the shoulders.

Is Your Shoulder Pain Related to Neck Problems?

There are many reasons someone could be experiencing shoulder pain. Some of them, like a rotator cuff tear, have nothing to do with the neck. However, as we just saw, shoulder pain can also be the result of a problem in the neck.

So how can we tell if the shoulder pain is related to a neck issue or a shoulder issue?

The doctors at Saratoga Spine have several tests at their disposal to help them correctly diagnose the source of your pain. When you first consult with the doctors you’ll be asked about your medical history and details about the pain you’re experiencing. During your examination we’ll use some in office tests to help diagnose the cause of your pain. In addition, medical imaging tests can also be performed to assist us with the diagnosis.

The best way to treat pain is by understanding where it’s coming from and treating the source of the problem. Shoulder pain can be tricky because the source of the pain is not always so obvious. With proper diagnosis and treatment, Saratoga Spine has helped hundreds of patients deal with their shoulder pain. If you’re ready for relief, schedule an appointment with our team of specialists.

*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery