Is Your Shoulder Pain Originating From Your Neck?

Is Your Shoulder Pain Originating From Your Neck? ?

Is Your Shoulder Pain Originating From Your Neck?

Shoulder pain can be a persistent and frustrating issue, impacting your daily activities and quality of life. While it’s commonly assumed that shoulder pain originates solely from the shoulder itself, it’s essential to recognize that sometimes the source of the discomfort may lie elsewhere, such as in the neck. Understanding the connection between neck and shoulder pain is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to differentiate between shoulder pain and neck-related pain and discuss when it might be coming from your neck.

Anatomy of the Neck and Shoulder

Before delving into the relationship between neck and shoulder pain, let’s briefly review the anatomy of these regions. The neck, also known as the cervical spine, consists of seven vertebrae stacked on top of each other. These vertebrae are connected by small joints called facet joints and cushioned by intervertebral discs. The cervical spine houses the spinal cord, which is protected by the vertebral bones.

Lateral view of the cervical spine

The shoulder is a complex structure comprised of bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. The primary bones of the shoulder include the humerus (upper arm bone), scapula (shoulder blade), and clavicle (collarbone). The shoulder joint is a ball-and-socket joint formed by the head of the humerus and the shallow socket of the scapula.

Muscles shoulder

Understanding Neck-Related Shoulder Pain

Neck-related shoulder pain, also known as referred pain, occurs when pain originating from the cervical spine radiates into the shoulder region. This can happen due to various reasons, including:

1. Nerve Compression or Irritation:
– Herniated discs, bone spurs, or spinal stenosis in the cervical spine can compress or irritate nearby nerves, causing pain that travels down the arm into the shoulder.

2. Muscle Tension and Trigger Points:
– Tightness or muscle knots in the neck muscles can refer pain to the shoulder area, mimicking symptoms of shoulder pain.

3. Poor Posture:
– Prolonged sitting or activities that involve forward head posture can strain the muscles and structures in the neck, leading to referred pain in the shoulders.

4. Cervical Facet Joint Dysfunction:
– Dysfunction or inflammation of the facet joints in the cervical spine can cause localized neck pain that radiates into the shoulders.

Differentiating Between Shoulder and Neck Pain

Distinguishing between shoulder pain and neck-related pain can be challenging as the symptoms may overlap. However, several factors can help differentiate the two:

1. Location of Pain:
– Neck-related pain typically originates from the base of the neck and may radiate into the shoulders or arms. Shoulder pain, on the other hand, is usually localized to the shoulder joint or surrounding muscles.

2. Nature of Pain:
– Neck-related pain may feel like a dull ache or burning sensation that worsens with neck movement. Shoulder pain may involve sharp, stabbing sensations, especially during specific movements or activities.

3. Associated Symptoms:
– Neck-related pain may be accompanied by symptoms such as neck stiffness, tingling or numbness in the arms or hands, and headaches. Shoulder pain may cause weakness, limited range of motion, and swelling in the affected shoulder joint.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you’re experiencing persistent shoulder pain that doesn’t improve with rest, over-the-counter pain medications, or home remedies, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional. Additionally, seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

– Severe pain or swelling in the shoulder or neck.
– Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the arms or hands.
– Difficulty performing daily activities due to shoulder or neck pain.
– Pain that worsens at night or interrupts sleep.


At the Spine and Performance Institute we use multiple modalities of treatment to care for patients who have shoulder or neck pain.  Call us to make an appointment.



Understanding the relationship between neck and shoulder pain is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. While shoulder pain can result from various factors, including injuries and overuse, it’s essential to consider the possibility of neck-related pain, especially if the symptoms persist or worsen over time. By recognizing the signs and seeking timely medical evaluation, you can address the underlying cause of your pain and work towards effective management and relief.

Always consult with a healthcare professional for personalized diagnosis and treatment recommendations tailored to your specific condition and needs. Your healthcare provider can conduct a thorough evaluation, including physical examination and imaging studies if necessary, to determine the source of your pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan. Remember, early intervention and proactive management are key to alleviating discomfort and restoring function in your neck and shoulders.

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