Facts You Need To Know About Neck And Shoulder Pain

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Neck and shoulder pain usually occurs together. This simultaneous pain in the neck and shoulder is common and usually results in a strain or sprain from sports, overexertion, or poor posture. Aside from these, this pain combination can be caused by a variety of things that may originate from the neck and the shoulder. This pain can be very challenging since the neck and the shoulders are affected, which means these body parts may be hard to move, and doing physical activities with the neck and shoulder involved can be difficult. Should you rest and or work when you are experiencing neck and shoulder pain? The answer depends. For some people, in some cases, their neck and shoulder pain get worse when they do certain activities like sports, walking, and even just turning their heads, while for others, their discomfort worsens when they just try to sleep and rest. What does it exactly mean? Listen to your body because every experience from people is unique and different.

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How Does Neck and Shoulder Pain Feel Like?

Neck and shoulder pain may be experienced right after or gradually after some injury, overexertion, incorrect posture, and doing sports. Many people have experienced this and may experience different kinds of pain; some may experience a couple of pain combinations—very unfortunate. What does neck and shoulder pain feel like if you haven’t experienced it yet your entire life? Here are some descriptions of what people with neck and shoulder pain feel:

  1. Mild discomfort or achiness. This pain might be only between and localized to a spot between the neck and shoulder. It also might be diffused in a broader region of the shoulder up to the neck.
  2. Sharp or shock-like pain. This pain comes and goes and could be radiating down the shoulder into the arm and/or hand.
  3. Stiffness and decreased range of motion of the shoulder and the neck may limit the movement of a person using these parts since it causes discomfort.
  4. Tenderness of some spots around the neck and shoulders. It is the feeling of discomfort and pain when the tender, in this case, the shoulder, and the neck, body part is pressed.
  5. Tingling sensation, numbness, and/or weakness. This may be experienced in the shoulder, arm, and hand of the affected person.

Development of Neck and Shoulder Pain

Have you ever wondered how your stiff neck causes pain in the upper shoulder and how the two body parts are so connected with each other? It is because the neck and the shoulders are interconnected in many nerves, muscles, tissues, and blood vessels which causes problems and discomforts in the neck being felt around the shoulders. After all, any tension from the neck is automatically sent to the shoulders through pain, and vice versa. Aside from the possible causes of neck pain that have been mentioned above, these underlying biomechanics can contribute to both neck and shoulder pain:

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  1. Muscle dysfunction. Inflammation of the neck and shoulder muscle may lead to stiffness which causes pain. When one muscle becomes tight, the other muscles need to work twice, which causes it to be painful.
  2. Nerve compression or inflammation. As has been described earlier, the neck and the shoulders are interconnected which means when a nerve in the neck is inflamed and stiff, you are more likely to feel pain in your shoulders and vice versa. The group of nerves in the lower neck and upper back, the brachial plexus can be responsible for the pain and neck discomfort a person is experiencing.
  3. Blood vessel compression. The blood circulation may be affected and can cause swelling if the blood vessels in the neck and shoulders are compressed. 

Other than these, one factor that could also add to the causes of neck and shoulder pain is overworking, stress, and anxiety. 

Myofascial Pain Syndrome

Myofascial pain syndrome is caused by the inflammation, tightness, and damaged connective tissue in the neck muscles (fascia) which results in a chronic muscular pain disorder that affects the skeletal muscles in the body. Like some other common neck and shoulder pain, this often results in tight and achy neck muscles which cause pain when moving, pain that spreads to the other nearby parts of the body such as the head, and tenderness of the muscles.

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How to treat Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

The following are several treatments you can do at home to minimize your myofascial neck pain:

Exercise- Exercise, like the recommended treatment for back and muscle pain, can be also helpful to treat neck pain. This will help reduce the stiffness, and tightness of your muscles by slowly and gently moving them. To do this, perform a gentle exercise that could stretch and strengthen neck and back muscles to reduce pain. Aerobic exercises such as biking, swimming, and walking are recommended.

Massages- When dealing with muscle pain, massages are always the first step that we Filipinos do to help ease muscle pain temporarily. I love massages. By doing this on your neck, remember to be gentle. You can lay on your back and ask someone to gently smooth out the tight parts of your neck and back. 

Heat therapy– heat helps dilate local blood vessels that will increase blood flow to the painful, tight parts by constricting and dilating muscles. To do this, only use heat therapy like electric heating pads and place them on the neck for at least 20 minutes. Safety considerations: always protect your skin and apply some barrier like a piece of cloth to avoid burning.

Taking anti-inflammatory drugs- when dealing with neck and shoulder pain, taking anti-inflammatory drugs is one of the best options to ease inflammation and discomfort. Over-the-counter medications such as Ibuprofen (Advil, Medicol), and Naproxen (Aleve) may help you enough to be able to move normally. For higher dosages of medication, seek help from your doctor for advice and prescriptions.

Disclaimer: It is important to note that practicing to treat and lessen your neck and shoulder pain at home should also be guided by your health care providers and doctors to ensure safety. Different people react to different treatments, and if any of your pain continues to get worse while following the steps mentioned, it is a good idea to go visit your doctor.


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