Do you have shoulder pain that just won’t go away? You have exercised it, rehabbed it, stretched it out, and even iced it regularly, but…it’s still there. Some days it feels ok, and other days it may be unbearable. If you know you have torn your rotator cuff, separated your shoulder playing a sport, or dislocated it with a fall, the pain is most certainly caused by damage to your shoulder itself. Focus on your shoulder to get it better.
But what if your shoulder pain came about without any obvious trauma or injury? If that is the case, and you have tried to fix your shoulder without any success, you may be looking in the wrong spot. Your shoulder and surrounding tissues have a close relationship to the function of your neck and vice versa. If the bones in your neck don’t move properly, or are not in the correct alignment, your neck could be causing your shoulder problem.
The neck has many possible tissues that can “refer” pain to the shoulder – nerves, muscles, ligaments, bones, and joints. Even though the problem “feels” like it is in the shoulder itself, it can commonly come from the neck. In fact, the brachial plexus (nerves C5-T1) supplies the chest, shoulder, arm, and hand. These nerves exit the neck and travel down the arm to the hand travelling through the shoulder.
The only way to tell for certain if your shoulder pain is coming from your neck is with a thorough spinal/neck examination and testing. However, here are some questions that may help determine if your neck is causing your shoulder pain:
These questions are good starting point. In my experience, most people with shoulder pain automatically assume the pain is coming from the shoulder itself. Most have never explored the possibility of a neck problem as a cause of their shoulder pain. Finding the true cause of a problem always results in the best possible chance of correcting the problem.
Maybe just fixing your neck problem will end up fixing your shoulder problem,