Shoulder Pain or Neck Pain? Which is the Guilty Party?

Nothing’s more annoying and inconvenient than being unable to pinpoint which is which. In the same way, a pain in your shoulder doesn’t mean the underlying cause is there either.


What some people may not know is that a shoulder problem might actually be a neck problem.


The neck and shoulders have connected nerve pathways. It’s hard for you to tell which the culprit is. Some call this shneck pain because it involves both the neck and the shoulder.

Scheck Pain

Shneck pain may appear as shoulder pain when it’s in fact a neck problem. But it can also be the other way around. Neck pain can mask a shoulder problem.


So why does this happen?


This is because many nerve pathways connect your neck and shoulders. When injury happens, your brain can’t always track the source of pain. So what we feel may not be what it seems like. This is referred pain.


Muscles and nerves play a role in this ever-confusing problem.

Muscle Pain

The neck muscles extend to the shoulders. Overuse can cause strain to these muscles. Or it may become stiff from neck pain. Then the entire muscle becomes sore.


Because the pain in your neck can reach your shoulder, your shoulder can get affected as well. The pain can also reach to the front and back of your shoulders.


You may have difficulty moving your shoulders. You’ll find it hard to raise your arm, lift objects or perform some hand movements.

Nerve Pain

Extending your shoulders can also cause neck pain. What happens is that the nerves in your neck area get affected. Some conditions can compress or pinch the nerve roots. These can be disc disorders, bone spurs or extreme muscle spasms of the neck.


When the nerves get irritated, it can cause pain in your shoulders down to your hands. This is because the nerves supply these body parts.

When You Suffer from Shoulder Pain…

Most often, an injury to the rotator cuff causes shoulder pain. The rotator cuff is a tendon-muscle group around the shoulder joint. These structures hold your upper arm bone within the socket of your shoulder.


People who use their arm too much are likely to suffer from shoulder pain. Also, those who also play sports such as tennis and golf are also susceptible to pain.


If you have a weak core or bad postural habits, you tend to use different muscles to pick up objects or reach for them. And this can cause both shoulder and neck pain. (Tip: Try our Pilates classes in Perth)


The most common symptoms of a rotator cuff injury include:


  • Pain while resting and at night, particularly if lying on the side with affected shoulder
  • Pain while lifting objects or rotating your arm
  • Cracking sensation that occurs when you move your shoulder in certain positions

…But the Problem is in Your Neck

There are many nerves and joints in your neck. If any of them get irritated, you may experience neck pain. The vertebrae in your neck area act as a hinge that allows you to nod or shake your head during conversation.


Pain can be confusing sometimes. This is why seeing a physiotherapist for a thorough examination is important.


Common symptoms of nerve-related neck pain include:


  • Pain radiating to your shoulder blade, or close to or on the side of your neck
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Pain that reaches past to your elbow or even into your hand
  • Persistent pain at rest
  • Pain that radiates down to your arm while extending or twisting your neck

What to Do

For shoulder pain relief, rest from activities that worsen pain. You may also apply cold compress to your shoulder. Consider physiotherapy treatments as well to address the underlying issues.


For neck pain relief, ice, heat and massage can help. To improve your range of motion and strength, physiotherapy is an excellent choice.


Just because your shoulder hurts doesn’t mean the problem is in your shoulder. And just because your neck hurts doesn’t mean the problem is in your neck either.


It takes a visit to a qualified physiotherapist to find out where the problem lies. Also, physiotherapy treatments for neck pain or shoulder pain help a lot.
Whether it’s a shoulder pain or neck pain, a Perth physiotherapist can help. Call us today at 9444 8729!