Could your pain be coming from your neck?

Sometimes “shoulder pain” is actually coming from the neck. It is not uncommon for patients to seek care from a shoulder specialist when the problem is originating in the neck. Of course, if your pain is coming

from your neck, I will suggest that you seek care from a provider that treats neck disorders.

How can you tell?

Here are some symptoms commonly associated with pain that is actually coming from the neck:

  • The pain is a deep, aching shoulder blade pain.
  • It often feels better if someone massages the shoulder blade on the part that is close to the midline of the back.
  • The pain is associated with a sense of tightness in the shoulder blade area.
  • The pain travels down the arm and into the forearm. It is very rare that a problem in the shoulder will hurt below the elbow. If you’re having pain below the elbow and into the hand there is a higher likelihood that your pain is coming from your neck and not your shoulder.
  • Neck problems commonly create altered sensation such as tingling or partial numbness. Shoulder problems almost never cause such symptoms. If you’re noting tingling numbness or a burning sensation in the forearm or the hand, consider that the problem is most likely coming from somewhere other than your shoulder.
  • Does movement of your neck cause your shoulder to hurt? This is a common sign of pain that comes from the neck.
  • Is your neck stiff? Have you ever had a “pinched nerve” before? These are clues that may suggest the neck as the origin of your shoulder pain.

I would like you to seek care from the correct provider for care of your problem. If you think your problem may be coming from your neck, I recommend that you seek care from a provider that helps take care of neck problems. Many family physicians are involved in care of neck disorders. Chiropractors, physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons specializing in care of the neck, and neurosurgeons are additional examples of practitioners that can help you find the source of your pain.