Is My Pain Coming from My Shoulder or My Neck? - Breakaway Physical Therapy
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Is My Pain Coming from My Shoulder or My Neck?

Neck & Shoulder Pain

The neck and shoulder are so close together that sometimes it is hard to tell where the neck ends and the shoulder begins. The same is true for neck and shoulder pain or injury; it can be difficulty to tell where the dysfunction lies.The neck and shoulder 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.

Is It My Neck?

The many of the nerves that leave the vertebrae in the neck, pass through the scalene muscles, meet together and mix around before continuing on between the collar bone and 1st rib then out into the arm. Nerves along this pathway can be irritated, causing referred pain or discomfort to be felt throughout the whole length of the nerve or in structures that are near the nerve.

Common signs that the neck is the source:

  • Burning, stabbing, numbness/tingling, or electric jolt sensations in your neck or down your arm (Including in your elbow or hand)
  • Pain that worsens in your arm or hand when you move your neck.
  • Pain that worsens with time spent in bad postures or without neck support.
  • Pain does not improve with rest.

Is It 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 to the muscles holding it all together. Many shoulder injuries are damage to the rotator cuff, or the main stabilizing muscle group of the shoulder. These small 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.

Common signs that the shoulder is the source:

  • Dull, aching pain in the shoulder or upper arm that intensifies with arm motion.
  • Pain with lifting, overhead reaching and reaching behind your head or behind your back.
  • Pain that improves with rest.
  • Pain in the upper arm, that does not reach the elbow.

Seek Help!

Pain coming from either your shoulder or neck can be very serious and debilitating. It can be hard to determine the source of pain yourself. At Breakaway Physical Therapy our skilled physical therapist can evaluate your neck and shoulder to determine the root of the problem. In the first visit your therapist 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. They will discuss activity modifications and develop an action plan consisting of hands on treatments and exercises to get you back to doing what you love.

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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