It’s common for people to experience both neck and shoulder pain. Some experts refer to this as “shneck pain," or shoulder and neck pain. In this blog post, find out why your neck injury may cause shoulder pain and what you should do about it.
Why do you feel shoulder pain if you’ve got a neck injury?
There are several nerves that begin in your neck and run through your arm. If you injure a nerve in your neck, pain may radiate to your shoulder and even down your arm. This type of pain is called referred pain, which is pain felt in a body part other than the original source—in this case, pain originating in the neck is felt in the shoulder.
There are several injuries that occur in or around your neck that can cause shoulder pain, including:
- Cervical radiculopathy, or a pinched nerve, occurs in your neck and sometimes pain spreads into your shoulder.
- Brachial plexus injury can produce shoulder pain. The brachial plexus refers to a group of nerves that begin in your neck and run through your arm.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition that occurs between your first rib and your collarbone.1 This condition can cause both neck and shoulder pain.
Conversely, sometimes shoulder conditions can produce both neck and shoulder pain. Arthritis of the acromioclavicular joint, which is the joint at the top of the shoulder, is one such example. It causes shoulder pain that can radiate to the neck.2 Whiplash is another example of an injury that can cause neck and shoulder pain.
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What to do if you feel shoulder and neck pain
See your doctor and get an accurate diagnosis if you’re feeling shoulder and neck pain. Your diagnosis will likely include a medical interview and a physical evaluation that includes range of motion and strength testing.3 A neurological examination and imaging testing, such as a MRI, may also be conducted.
Although medical testing is not a lot of fun, it’s necessary in order to pinpoint the cause of pain and implement the correct treatment.
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00336. Last reviewed: January 2011 Accessed December 2, 2016.
- Arthritis of the Shoulder. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website.http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00222. Last reviewed: January 2013. Accessed December 5, 2016.
- Is Your Shoulder Pain Actually a Neck Problem? Cleveland Clinic website.https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/06/is-your-shoulder-pain-actually-caused-by-a-neck-problem/ . June 23, 2015 Accessed December 2, 2016.