Your Shoulder Pain Could Actually Be a Neck Problem

Unexplained shoulder pain can cause you to suffer during the day and make it hard to sleep at night. However, the cause of shoulder pain could actually not be located in your shoulder at all! More and more people are discovering what a referred pain diagnosis is, due to shoulder pain that actually originates as neck or “cervical” pain.

At Empire Physical Therapy & Athletic Rehabilitation, PC, in New York, New York, Billy Reilly, MS, PT, and Paul LaRosa, MS, PT can accurately locate the true source of your pain. If it’s shoulder pain, it can be treated, and if it’s actually cervical pain, they can create a plan to relieve your symptoms and help rectify the root cause.

What are the most likely causes of shoulder pain?

If you have real shoulder pain, it typically comes from the shoulder joint and is the result of an acute injury such as a strain or a common overuse injury like a torn rotator cuff. In the case of a strain, heat, ice, pain relief, and physical therapy can help. In case of a torn rotator cuff, arthroscopic surgery could be needed. If you have shoulder pain and it’s unexplained, however, your neck could be the problem.

Referred shoulder pain

A lot of nerves in your neck and your shoulder are connected. Sometimes when a nerve picks up a pain signal, by the time it gets to the brain it isn’t clear whether it came from one part of your body or another. This can cause pain originating in the neck to be read as coming from the shoulder. The referred shoulder pain can make it difficult to diagnose your health issue.

Cervical issues that cause shoulder pain

There are 14 nerves and eight joints in your neck. If the soft tissue around them is inflamed or the discs between them are deteriorating or compromised due to disease, osteoporosis, or arthritis, the nerves can become pinched or compressed. You could feel a shooting pain in your shoulder and arm, that resembles a tingling, numbness, or a “frozen shoulder” sensation. You might also have weakness in your arm and find it impossible to raise your hand above shoulder level.  

Treatment for neck pain presenting in the shoulder

At Empire Physical Therapy & Athletic Rehabilitation, PC, the team can help you lay out a physical therapy program targeting neck issues that caused referred shoulder pain. Your tailored plan may include aerobic exercises, stretches, ice packs, heat therapy, massage, ultrasound, and/or electrotherapy.

If you have unexplained pain in your shoulder and want to know if you actually have a neck problem instead, contact our office at 646-491-9141 for an appointment, or contact us online

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