Could Shoulder Pain Be Caused By A Neck Issue?

Category: Neck Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 26, 2019

Shoulder Neck Pain

For the majority of aches or pains, the location of the discomfort is also a telling sign of where the source of the issue is located. That being said, with some injuries, a problem in one area can lead to symptom onset in a completely different part of your body. This can make it difficult to both diagnose and treat the underlying issue.

The most common structure in your body that leads to symptom development in another area of your body is your spine. This usually happens when a nerve that extends to another part of the body becomes impinged, but it can happen for other reasons as well. Oftentimes, when patients come in complaining of shoulder soreness or stiffness, if an acute injury can be ruled out, doctors will often look to the cervical spine to find the underlying cause of pain.

Why Shoulder Pain Can Be A Neck Problem

Your body has eight nerve roots that branch from each side of the cervical spine in your neck, and they are labeled C1-C8. Aside from C1 and C2, the other six nerves all pass through a specific part of your shoulder in route to their final destination. If any of these nerves become irritated or compressed, symptoms can be expressed in the shoulder. This condition is known as cervical radiculopathy.

Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include:

  • Dull or sharp pain in the shoulder or extremities.
  • Pain that seems to come and go.
  • Discomfort in the shoulder blade without acute injury.
  • Radiating numbness in the upper or lower arm.
  • A pins-and-needles sensation in the shoulder and/or arm.
  • Shoulder or arm weakness.

More specifically, C5 nerve compression often leads to pain in the upper shoulder near the neck, while radiculopathy of the C6 nerve is often associated with pain in the outer area of the shoulder. C7 nerve compression often affects the inner part of the shoulder nearer to the spine, and C8 radiculopathy usually affects the lower area of the shoulder. These are common patterns of shoulder radiculopathy, but your best bet, if you’re experiencing a similar type of shoulder discomfort, is to seek out a spine or neck specialist.

Treating Cervical Radiculopathy

Nerve compression is an issue that should be actively treated sooner rather than later, because left untreated, nerve damage can get worse and lead to more painful or permanent problems. The good news is that treated early enough, conservative methods are usually quite effective. A combination of anti-inflammatory medications, stretching techniques, physical therapy, controlled exercise or spinal injections can all help to put an end to nerve compression.

If you’re still in pain after six weeks of conservative care, your specialist may talk to you about your surgical options. A decompression operation can help to free the impinged nerve and provide more space for the nerve going forward. Dr. Sinicropi has performed this procedure countless times, but he’s also helped numerous patients avoid surgery by helping them find relief through conservative efforts.

So if you’re dealing with shoulder pain, don’t just assume the problem is with your shoulder. Consider talking with a spine and neck specialist like Dr. Sinicropi, and we’ll help get you back on the path to a pain-free life. For more information, contact his office today.

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