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Is It My Shoulder or My Neck That’s Causing Pain?

Referred pain is pain that the body can not trace to an exact source. Patients who suffer from such pain are often frustrated—not knowing where their pain is truly coming from means they can’t treat their symptoms. Perhaps one of the best examples of this type of situation occurs in patients who have shoulder and/or neck pain.  If you’re one of these patients, here’s how to tell what’s causing your pain:

When Pain is Caused by The Shoulder

 The three most common shoulder injuries are:

  1. Rotator cuff tears. The rotator cuff consists of a group of muscles and tendons that rotate and stabilize the shoulder. The cuff may be torn while performing overhead arm movements or because tendons have weakened and worn with age.
  2. Labrum tears. The glenoid labrum is a ring of cartilage that holds the head of the humerus in the glenoid cavity of the scapula. Like the rotator cuff, it may be torn while performing overhead arm movements.
  3. Overuse can cause the joint lining fluid-filled sacs, known as bursae, to become irritated and inflamed.

The most common symptoms of these injuries are:

  • A dull, achy pain in the shoulder or outside of the upper arm
  • Pain that occurs when raising the arm overhead
  • Pain that occurs when reaching behind the back
  • Pain that radiates into the upper arm, but not the elbow
  • Shoulder instability

The presence of these symptoms, findings of an orthopedic sports medicine specialist’s clinical exam, and diagnostic test results are needed to definitively diagnosis shoulder injuries.


When Pain is Caused by The Neck

 Neck pain is typically caused by damage to one of the joints, vertebrae and/or impingement of the spinal nerves. If you think your neck is causing your pain, look for the following symptoms:

  • Burning, tingling, and/or numbness in the arm, elbow, hand, and/or fingers
  • Pain that radiates down the side of the neck and into the shoulder blade
  • Pain that occurs when twisting and/or flexing the neck
  • Pain that decreases when the neck is supported by a brace or pillow

In order to receive a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan outlined of a neck injury/condition, an Orthopedic and Spine Specialist should be consulted.


Treating Your Pain

 If you’re in pain, please don’t hesitate to contact our offices to arrange an appointment with one of our sports medicine specialists. Once an accurate diagnosis has been made, a treatment plan that’s right for you will be created. Expect a full recovery and return to a symptom-free life when you chose our practice.