Our neck and shoulders are made of ligaments, muscles, nerves, veins, bones and much more. When one of these structures is damaged, it leads to pain. While some of the neck and shoulder pain cases are related to life-threatening problems such as heart attack and trauma; some of them are not that severe like simple neck pain and strain.
Neck and shoulder pain leads to significant discomfort for the sufferers and affects their overall lifestyle. It not only reduces their productivity but also impacts their finances and positivity. Even though there are multiple causes of it, most of the treatments are surprisingly similar.
While neck pain is about headaches, muscle spasm and tightness (this happens you tend to keep your head in one position for a prolonged time like driving, working on a laptop), shoulder pain can be felt in shoulder joint areas, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
In this article, our highly experienced Pain Doctor in Gilbert, Arizona gives an insight into the 5 most essential things you should know about the pain in your back and shoulder.
Neck Pain Treatment Depends On The Root Cause
Today, several treatments are available for neck and shoulder pain—for example, over the counter medications, physical therapies, and workout routines.
When it is the case of muscle spasms, you can use muscle relaxants unless you recognize the source of the pain. Warm compress, ice packs, body massages are also great for alleviating such types of problems. Patients with severe neck and shoulder pain are recommended to consult medical experts as they can help it treat with the right treatment.
Patients with mild neck and shoulder pain can follow specific home remedies. If you have severe pain, it is better to see a doctor. Stretching exercises help to reduce the stiffness, and physical therapies can cure soft tissue injuries and offer relaxation.
If the root of the pain is severe, then medical treatment is necessary. If the problem is sourced from any fracture, there might be a need for surgical treatments.
Nowadays, medical experts follow different techniques to diagnose neck and shoulder pain, and the diagnosis readings lead to reliable treatment options. The following are the standard diagnosis methods used widely:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): This noninvasive medical procedure gives the details of neural elements. The neural information is nothing but the nerve-related data. MRIs also reveal more about the ligaments and tendons.
- CT Scan Or Myelography: Many medical experts may recommend this as an alternative for MRI.
- X-rays: This is the most common diagnosis method of all. It reveals if there’s a narrowing between the two spinal bones or if the patient is suffering from any bones-related disease such as arthritis.
- Electrodiagnostics: In some cases, electromyography (also known as EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NVC) are used to diagnose disorders in neck and shoulder. It reveals the source of the neck pain, arm pain, tingling and stiffness.
Even The Daily Housework Can Cause Shoulder And Neck Pain
Have you ever spent your springtime cleaning the roof gutters in your home? If yes, you might have experienced some pain in your back or shoulder as our bodies are not acclimated to work on ladders for straight 4 hours.
People who are in this profession, their bodies adopt the practice of working while always leaning their head backwards. However, such kinds of activities are not so feasible for our body structures. Therefore, if you are planning to do some housework this holiday, make sure to change positions after a specific time. Stretching and rotating your neck/shoulder is also suggested to prevent further discomfort.
Holding the neck in a single position for a long time harms your muscles and results in strain in your neck and shoulder. Even your sitting or sleeping posture can contribute to neck and shoulder discomfort. For example, if you have a habit of sleeping on a high pillow, it damages the muscles in your neck. A sudden jerk on a neck while working out is also a common cause of this pain in sportspersons and athletes.
To summarize, such cases of pain can range from minor ones that are mostly ignored by many to excruciating ones that affect your daily life and prevents you from doing activities like dressing up, sleeping and more.
In rare cases, it also causes stiffness in the neck and shoulder area and limited range of motion.
So that you know, the severity of the neck and shoulder pain is categorized in the following three types:
- Acute: If the pain lasts for more than four weeks
- Subacute: If the pain lasts in the range of 3-12 weeks
- Chronic: If the pain lasts for more than three months
Several Causes Can Lead To Neck And Shoulder Pain
Neck and shoulder contain several anatomical structures, and each one of them should be in its sound health to keep your neck and shoulder entirely in shape.
If anyone of them gets injured, that results in pain. Issues related to the spinal cord, cervical discs, veins running through your neck and body muscles are some of the primary causes of neck and shoulder discomfort. Sometimes, patients experience it due to abnormalities in the head or chest.
The most common causes for neck and shoulder pain is strain and sprain that occurs due to sports activities, exertion, and inaccurate sitting or sleeping posture. Patients with injured soft tissues are prone to issues with neck and shoulder such as muscle spasms, stiffness and headache.
Here is the list of some common causes of neck and shoulder pain:
- Rotating Cuff Tear
- cervical radiculopathy
- Cervical spondylosis
- Damaged discs
- Heart attack
- Stable angina
- Collarbone injuries
- Frozen shoulders
- Shoulder tendinitis, separation or bursitis
- Enlarged gallbladder
Some Neck & Shoulder Pain Conditions Are Life-Threatening
While many causes of shoulders and neck pain disappear with time, some of them are extremely dangerous and can lead to life-threatening medical conditions. Therefore, it is critical to identify future problems and get immediate medical assistance to treat them.
Patients that have suffered any trauma such as car accidents must check if there is any injury in the spinal cord or vertebrae fracture. These sorts of problems can lead to permanent paralysis and can put your future in danger if you do not treat them in time. Also, if conditions like severe headache, chest pain, cancer history, weight loss, fever are associated with a neck injury, see the doctor as soon as possible.
You must seek immediate medical assistance if:
- You experience severe pain
- Motion range is limited
- You feel you might be in a medical emergency
- In case of muscle or tendon tear
- If the pain comes back after you have recovered
- If pain persists or gets more severe with time
You Can Follow Several Steps To Prevent Neck And Shoulder Pain
It is true that you cannot avoid some particular neck and shoulder pain cases. However, if you make specific modifications to your daily routine, it can be prevented! People who are involved in sports and gym activities are suggested to wear proper equipment while in action and follow appropriate guidelines.
We all drive cars or act as passengers almost every day, and wearing a seatbelt is necessary as a preventive measure. For those who regularly work on laptops or desktops, keep the mouse and screen position correctly to avoid excessive stress on neck and shoulder muscles. A poorly designed workplace can cause neck and shoulder-related medical conditions.
Try the following steps to prevent neck and shoulder discomfort:
- In case of mild pain, try over the counter pain relievers.
- Take a break from your gym activities, and sports as it can aggravate the pain.
- You can apply ice packs for 20 minutes 5 times a day (continue this for 3 consecutive days). This will prevent your neck and shoulder from swelling.
- Massages can be really great to reduce pain in the affected area.
- Warm compress and heat pads can offer comfort.