If your shoulders have been bothering you, your neck may actually be to blame. Neck and shoulder pain are often related, which is why doctors usually will examine your neck when you complain of shoulder pain.
The shoulder is a complex joint made up of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and bones. Most shoulder pain originates from injury to the soft tissues of the shoulder, but in some cases, especially when you experience both neck and shoulder pain, cervical disk disease or a problem with the bones or nerves in your neck may be the source of your problem.
Neck and Shoulder Pain: Cervical Disk Disease
Cervical disk disease is a condition of the cervical spine, meaning the part of your spine in your neck. Your cervical spine is comprised of seven spinal bones, or vertebrae. These bones are separated by intervertebral disks — flexible tissue that absorbs shock and allows you to move your neck with ease. Cervical disk disease affects these disks and can place stress on the nerves in your neck, which, in turn, can affect your shoulders.
Neck and Shoulder Pain: Other Causes
Sometimes neck and shoulder pain is a sign of something more serious. While not common, these conditions might include:
Spinal cord tumor. When spinal cord tumors arise in the cervical region of the spine, they usually cause neck pain, and may eventually trigger pain in the shoulders, arms, or legs as the tumor grows and compresses different nerves.
Meningitis. One of the primary symptoms of meningitis, a life-threatening infection of the central nervous system, is neck pain and stiffness, along with other symptoms like fever and vomiting. In some cases, meningitis can also cause pain and stiffness in the shoulders.
Previous neck injury. A past injury or trauma to your neck can result in lasting damage that affects the nerves leading to your shoulder, causing shoulder pain. That’s why your doctor will take a careful medical history as part of your evaluation.
If you have chronic shoulder pain, make an appointment with one of our professional experts for a proper examination to see whether an underlying neck problem could be to blame. Neck-related shoulder pain can be a sign of a serious problem, but it could also just be due to a minor condition like a muscle spasm. A thorough evaluation will allow you to sort out the cause of your pain and obtain the appropriate treatment.