6 Treatment Options For Pain In The Neck And Shoulder
Pain in the neck and shoulder can be debilitating and impact daily activities, making even the most mundane tasks challenging. Various factors can contribute to this discomfort, ranging from poor posture and muscle strain to more serious conditions such as herniated discs or nerve compression.
In this blog, we will discuss potential causes of neck and shoulder pain and possible treatment options that may alleviate pain or discomfort that does not go away with self-care.
Possible Causes Of Neck And Shoulder Pain
Depending on the case, pain can be mild or excruciating, transitory, sudden (acute), or chronic. But before treatment options can be considered, the root cause or causes of neck and shoulder pain must be determined. Some of the factors that can cause such pains include the following:
Muscle strain is a common cause of neck and shoulder pain and stiffness. This occurs when the muscles are overexerted. However, while it’s commonly caused by overuse and repetitive movements, it can also be triggered by emotional stress and poor exercise form.
Additionally, sitting or standing with improper posture and even looking down at a laptop or phone for extended periods can contribute to neck and shoulder pain since the muscles can become fatigued and strained.
Herniated discs or spurs can compress nerves, resulting in sharp pain radiating from the neck to the shoulders and other symptoms such as pins and needles or radiation to nearby areas. Incorrect lifting or a bad fall can cause this type of pain.
Whiplash, sports injuries, incorrect lifting techniques, and carrying heavy bags can place excessive and unequal stress on muscles, leading to strain or injury. In addition, muscle spasms can cause stiffness and pain to the point where you may not be able to turn your head without experiencing pain.
Arthritis Or Facet Joint Pain
Joint pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders could also be due to different types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis, for instance, is associated with wear and tear on the joints. On the other hand, inflammatory and autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and lupus arthritis, can also cause joint pain and stiffness.
Referred Pain From Other Medical Conditions
Referred pain is a type of pain that is felt in an area of the body other than its actual source. Medical conditions such as heart disease, lung problems, bone disorders, or gallbladder issues can cause pain in the neck and shoulder area.
Treatment Options For Neck And Shoulder Pain
Neck and shoulder pain can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. Fortunately, various treatment options are available to help alleviate this discomfort and improve overall well-being.
But depending on the nature and intensity of the pain, seeking the help of a healthcare professional may be necessary. For example, if the pain is severe or persistent, accompanied by fever and chills, or if it radiates down the arm and is accompanied by numbness, tingling, or weakness, it is crucial to consult a doctor for further evaluation.
Below is a list of treatment options that can be used alone or in combination:
Heat And Cold Therapy
Common self-care measures such as heat and cold therapy may be sufficient for mild pain. Heat may help relax muscles and increase blood flow, while cold may reduce inflammation and numb pain. Alternating between the two may help manage discomfort.
Taking over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or naproxen may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. In some cases, a doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxants or other medications.
If your pain is due to poor posture or muscle imbalances, a long history of spinal issues and joint pain, or if conventional treatments have not provided relief, chiropractic care may be a helpful alternative.
Spinal manipulation, or chiropractic adjustment, is a common technique chiropractors use to address misalignments in the spine. By applying controlled force to specific joints, chiropractors can help restore proper alignment, reduce inflammation, and alleviate pain in the neck and shoulder area.
This technique is often used to address primary care for immediate relief, correction or alignment, and supportive care.
Massage And Soft Tissue Therapies
Regular massage can help relax tight muscles, improve circulation, and reduce pain in the neck and shoulder area. However, when spastic muscles and adhesions are the major sources of pain, chiropractors often utilize soft tissue therapies to address muscle and ligament tension.
Soft tissue therapies include myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and active release technique (ART), which may help break up adhesions, reduce muscle spasms, and improve flexibility in the affected area.
Mobilization And Stretching Techniques
Mobilization and stretching techniques may be helpful in improving flexibility and mobility, particularly in the neck and shoulder area. Joint mobilization and muscle energy techniques are commonly used in physical therapy to improve joint range of motion. On the other hand, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching involves contracting and relaxing the muscles while stretching to improve flexibility and is also commonly used in rehabilitation settings.
Therapeutic Exercises And Physical Therapy
Both chiropractors and physical therapists offer exercise-based approaches to improve muscle strength and joint mobility. However, chiropractic care primarily focuses on adjustments, self-care, and a holistic perspective, while physical therapy emphasizes targeted rehabilitation and functional training.
These exercises can help strengthen muscles, improve posture, increase the range of motion, and promote flexibility. All these can reduce the risk of future pain and injury, especially when the patient follows a personalized exercise program to perform at home, ensuring continued progress between appointments.