Why Neck Pain Usually Comes
With Shoulder Pain And Vice Versa
Since the neck and shoulder are so close to each other, it’s no wonder the two are intimately related. In our hectic lifestyle of driving, hunching over computers and talking on the phone, our muscles in the neck, upper back and shoulders seem to tighten up and hurt at the same time. Why is that?
The question is, between the neck and the shoulder, which one is the “chicken” and which one is the “egg?”
There are nerves that branch out from our spinal cords around our neck. These nerves go to our head, shoulders, arms, forearms and hands. These spinal nerves come out on both sides of our neck bones… 8 sets of cervical (neck) spinal nerves. All of these nerves travel to a specific destination allowing us to move our muscles and to feel different sensations like hot, cold, sharp, dull, vibration… and position sense.
When these nerves get pinched or irritated, they don’t function as well.
When these spinal nerves malfunction, then it becomes a challenge to button a shirt… thread a needle… or pick up small objects. A pinched nerve in the neck can also make it difficult to unscrew jars… squeeze a spray bottle… or lift a milk container from the refrigerator.
When a nerve in your neck is pinched, it can have a dramatic effect
on your ability to do things where you use your shoulder, arm and hand.
On the other hand, when your shoulder is injured (such as a rotator cuff tear), this can also result in neck problems. There are several ways pain from the neck affects the shoulder and vice versa.
When your shoulder is injured, pain “information” is relayed to your brain starting at the nerve endings located in the area of your shoulder injury… transmitting impulses between the shoulder and the neck… and finally from the neck to the sensory cortex of the brain. That information is processed and communication to the motor cortex prompts nerve signals to be sent back to the shoulder through the neck and to the injured shoulder.
A reflex muscle spasm often occurs as a result, serving as kind of an “internal cast” as the muscle spasm tries to protect the injured shoulder. This can become a “vicious cycle” or never-ending “loop” until this abnormal damaging reflex is interrupted… perhaps by proper neck treatment.
Another way both the neck and the shoulder become injured has to do with modifications in function.
For example, we tend to change the way we go about our daily chores when an injury occurs to the shoulder, such as putting on a coat differently by leaning over to the opposite side. These functional changes can also give rise to neck pain.
Because of this reflex cycle, as well as the close anatomic relationship between the neck and shoulder, not to mention the “domino effect” of soft-tissue injuries… which seem to change the function at the next joint level… it’s not surprising that both the neck AND the shoulder require simultaneous treatment for optimal treatment benefit.
However, the good news is, regardless of which one is the “chicken or the egg,” we can treat problems in your neck and in your shoulders at the same time. After over 15 years of helping patients get neck pain relief and shoulder pain relief, we’ve mastered methods that will get you feeling better fast… and quickly help you regain the neck and shoulder movement and range of motion that you’ve already lost.