Do I Have Neck Pain Or Shoulder Pain
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Is My Pain Coming from My Shoulder or My Neck?

Neck & Shoulder Pain

Neck and shoulder pain can cause so many difficulties in your life. Like stopping you from enjoying your favorite book because your neck is stiff, or shoulder pain interrupting your working day because you can't take your mind away from the pain.

But the worst part is if you can't identify the source of the pain. Some days you may get shoulder pain, and some days your shoulder pain may radiate into your neck.

The neck and shoulder are so close together that sometimes it is hard to tell if you have neck pain or shoulder pain.

Your neck and shoulders share many muscles and nerves. When there is damage to one of these structures sometimes the brain has a hard time deciding where the pain is coming from.

This blog explains the signs to look out for if you want to determine whether your pain is coming from your shoulder or your neck, and when you should seek help for your discomfort to get you back to enjoying your favorite book without neck pain.

Why Can't I Tell If My Pain Is Neck Or Shoulder Pain?

Many of the nerves in your body travel from your spine through to your neck.

They then continue the journey through your shoulder muscles and then out into your arms.

Nerves along this pathway can become irritated due to injury or nerve damage, causing pain and discomfort to be felt throughout the whole length of the nerve and in the sections of the body (like your neck) these nerves run through, even if it's not your neck that's causing the pain.

This is the fundamental reason you may not be able to tell where the pain is coming from.

Is My Pain Coming From My Neck?

There are common signs that the pain you're experiencing is coming from your neck.

You may feel numbness, an 'electric jolt' feeling, or a tingling sensation in your neck. This could also continue down into your arm including your elbow or hand.

You may also experience pain when you're put in certain situations. For example, if the pain worsens in your arm or hand when you move your neck.

Pain that gets worse with time spent in bad postures or without neck support, this could be sitting at your work desk for example.

Or, pain that doesn't improve with some rest.

Is My Pain Coming From My Shoulder?

While the neck has many nerves that can be the culprit, typically shoulder pain has a muscular origin.

The shoulder is a very dynamic joint; It takes the form of a ball rolling in a socket. While this shape gives us lots of mobility it can be stressful for the muscles holding it all together.

Many shoulder injuries are damage to the rotator cuff or the main muscle group of the shoulder.

Some shoulder muscles get weaker with age and disuse, often leading to pain with arm motion.

These muscles are very close to the neck and some of the nerve pathways leading into the arm, pain here can mimic neck pain.

There are also some common signs that your shoulder is the cause of your pain.

You could experience a dull, aching pain in the shoulder or upper arm that intensifies with arm motion.

Pain can also come from lifting, overhead reaching, and reaching behind your head or behind your back.

If you have pain that does improve with rest, it's likely your shoulder is the culprit.

Need Some Expert Help With Your Neck Pain Or Shoulder Pain?

Pain coming from either your shoulder or neck can be very serious and debilitating. And it can be hard to determine the source of pain yourself.

At Breakaway Physical Therapy we offer a limited number of free breakthrough visits where our skilled physical therapist can evaluate your neck and shoulder to determine the root of the problem.

They will work with you to develop a plan to get you back to doing all the things you want to without being limited by pain.

You can arrange your free breakthrough visit by filling in our simple web form, or if you prefer to talk to a member of the team on the telephone, you can call us at 410-721-6333.

Right Now We Also Offer...

We think we've found the pillow that everyone with neck pain should try, and we currently have it at a discounted price!

Pillowise custom-fitted pillows can provide you with the neck pain relief you need to get a restful sleep and wake up feeling ready for the day instead of tired, frustrated and in pain.

These pillows are made from a luxurious memory foam which is very comfortable to lay on and they each come customized to you. We take some measurements of your shoulders, neck, and back and also take into account the position you like to sleep in!

If you're looking to relieve your neck pain and get a better quality of sleep, arrange your free measurement for your Pillowise pillow where you can speak to our physical therapist about any questions you may have, if you decide to go ahead, our Pillowise pillows currently have 15% off!

Not Sure If Physical Therapy Is Right For You?

If you're not sure about physical therapy and you would like some more information to ease your neck and shoulder pain in the short term, you can download our free neck and shoulder pain report below.

Download Our Free Neck And Shoulder Pain Report Here.

Other Free Resources For Neck And Shoulder Pain Relief 

Read Our Blog - How To Sleep Comfortably With Neck Pain

Read Our Blog - What Is 'Tech Neck' And Can It Be Reversed

Follow us on our social media channels - Facebook, Instagram,


Brittany Gunter

Brittany Gunter

Brittany graduated from University of Maryland Baltimore with an emphasis on the pelvic floor. She attended Penn State for Kinesiology before that. I became interested in PT in college and also had a women's health course that opened my eyes to disparities in care and ultimately lead me to specializing in pelvic floor treatments. I’m Super excited to have joined the Breakaway team. My favorite part of PT is empowering patients by giving them the tools they need to get better and remain healthy/maintain wellness for the rest of their lives. In my free time I enjoy hiking, yoga/ Pilates, trivia, and traveling.
Brittany Gunter

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