8 Possible Causes Of Neck And Shoulder Pain
While it’s easy to overlook the days when you have pain-free neck and shoulders, experiencing pain in these areas can place a heavy damper on your day. Neck pain makes it difficult to turn your head, while certain types of shoulder pain can even make sitting in front of your computer bothersome.
Neck and shoulder pain can come from simple everyday causes, with more serious underlying causes being rare occurrences. This article discusses eight possible causes of neck and shoulder pain, what you can do, and when to seek treatment.
Wrong Sleeping Position
Everyone’s woken up with a stiff neck or a piercing pain around their shoulder blades. This is commonly due to sleeping in the wrong position, with an asymmetrical neck loading. This can occur, for example, when you sleep on the couch with your head on the armrest or have multiple pillows under your neck and back.
Staying in these positions for prolonged periods can cause muscle irritation, leading to day-long discomfort. But while this can be disconcerting, the pain should go away after a good night’s rest sleeping on your back or with some ibuprofen. If the neck and shoulder pain persists, consult with a specialist, as issues like spinal misalignment can be the underlying cause of the discomfort.
Similar to the above, poor posture can lead to neck and shoulder discomfort. This can stem from everyday activities that include the following:
- Hunching over a computer
- Watching television (TV) in a weird position, either seated or lying down
- Long drives
During such prolonged activities, it can be challenging to maintain good posture. Hence, it’s best to practice being more mindful of your posture, whatever you may be doing. For example, when working with computers, ensure the screen is at eye level to avoid slumping over. Practices like this promote body and balance and prevent similar posture-related stiffness.
Carrying Heavy Loads
Carrying heavy loads, such as a shoulder bag, creates an imbalance in the body. This results in other muscles compensating to keep the head and shoulders upright. Doing this long enough can result in muscle strain, eventually manifesting in nagging pain.
Shoulder pain can also stem from subacromial bursitis. This occurs when fluid sacs that lubricate joints to allow motion become inflamed. This often comes from repetitive overhead movement from activities like housework and sports. For example, the unfamiliar movement of working on your roof gutters can result in neck and shoulder pain. Meanwhile, the constant wear and tear of playing tennis regularly can cause shoulder inflammation.
Usually, rest, stretching, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications can take care of this type of shoulder pain. If symptoms persist, it’s best to consult a specialist to identify more serious structural damage.
This is a common term for numbness, tingling, or weakness sensations. However, this can be a symptom of cervical radiculopathy, where a nerve root of a spinal nerve is compressed or irritated. Apart from neck and shoulder discomfort, this condition can also affect the arms, chest, and upper back.
Like the conditions above, nonsurgical treatments like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications can usually treat a pinched nerve. Additionally, you can try these exercises.
Whiplash refers to tearing neck muscles, ligaments, and tendons resulting from sudden, dramatic movement. This can result from things like taking a blow to the head, a vehicular collision, or falling. Whiplash symptoms don’t appear immediately, usually taking up to 24 hours or longer before manifesting as neck pain, blurred vision, headaches, and dizziness.
Gallstones or enlarged gallbladder can cause sudden and sharp right shoulder pain and back discomfort between the shoulder blades. Gallbladder issues can also manifest as abdomen pain, specifically in the upper right or centre, just below the breastbone.
There are instances when neck and shoulder pain can be symptoms of different heart conditions. This includes the following:
- Stable angina: This occurs when the heart isn’t getting ample oxygen due to narrowing coronary arteries. Other stable angina symptoms include pain in the centre of the chest, which can spread to the left arm, jaw, back, neck and shoulders.
- Cervical artery dissection: While rare, it’s among the most common causes of stroke in middle-aged adults. Other symptoms besides neck pain include speech difficulty, arm numbness or weakness, and drooping of the face.
- Heart attack: Neck pain can accompany heart attack symptoms like chest, arm, back, and jaw pain.
If you are experiencing any of the above heart conditions, seek medical help immediately.