How to Tell When Shoulder Pain Is Neck-Related and What to Do

Connection between shoulder pain and neck conditions

Sometimes shoulder pain is related directly to a problem in the shoulder, but there are many cases where the source of shoulder pain is actually in the neck. How can you know if your shoulder pain is related to your neck? If it is, what can you do to find long-lasting relief? We’re going to take a closer look at the connection between the neck and the shoulder to see how one affects the other and what you can do about it.

What Is the Connection Between the Neck and the Shoulders?

The first major connection between the neck and shoulders is seen in the anatomy of the central nervous system. This is the communication highway of the body, and it involves the brain and spinal cord, but also all the nerves that extend throughout the body for sending signals back and forth.

Nerves that begin at the C3 and C8 vertebrae in the neck extend into the shoulders. Thus, compression of the nerve in the neck can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and other shoulder symptoms. The pain may be sharp or dull depending on the degree and location of the nerve irritation. You may also experience weakness in the shoulder.

Indicators of Neck Involvement in Shoulder Pain

What are some factors that indicate the neck is involved in a shoulder problem? The most common would be experiencing neck pain along with the shoulder pain. You shouldn’t assume that the two pain locations are due to different problems. If the pain also radiates down the arm, this too could indicate nerve compression since some of the nerves that extend from the neck through the shoulder also extend down the arm. This is why some healthcare practitioners even pay attention to the neck when it comes to conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

The anatomy of the body provides a clear link between the neck and the shoulders. Thus, it makes sense to check for misalignments if you are suffering from shoulder pain, especially if you are dealing with other symptoms that indicate it could be a neck problem that is at the source of your shoulder pain. An upper cervical chiropractor may be able to provide the safe and gentle relief you are searching for. How?

The Atlas and the Cervical Spine

Upper cervical chiropractors focus on the top two bones of the spine, the atlas (C1) and axis (C2). You may notice that these are not the exact location of the nerve roots that feed into the shoulders. So why look higher than where the problem is occurring, even just by a few vertebrae?

The atlas balances the skull. That’s where the name atlas comes from – the Greek titan who, according to myth, held the world on his shoulders. Because of the unique role of this bone, it can have a profound effect on the rest of the spine, especially the neck. Even the slightest misalignment of the atlas will cause the spine to shift to compensate and keep the head balanced.

This, in turn, can lead to the neck becoming locked in a stressed position. The discs between the vertebrae pay the price. They may degenerate prematurely or they may bulge and affect the surrounding nerves. As a result, pain may occur in the shoulders, as well as other symptoms like numbness or a pins and needles sensation.

Identifying an Upper Cervical Misalignment

The best way to identify an upper cervical misalignment is through diagnostic imaging techniques such as x-rays. However, there are indicators that would appear in a physical examination. These include things such as a difference in leg length, uneven hips, and a dropped shoulder. In fact, an upper cervical practitioner may ask you to stand straight and look at whether your shoulders line up as a preliminary way to know if your atlas is out of alignment before performing an adjustment. This shows just how connected upper cervical alignment is to the shoulders.

A consultation with an upper cervical practitioner may reveal whether this is the right form of care for you. An extensive patient history will be taken. Why? Head and neck injuries such as car accidents, concussions, or even a slip and fall may be behind an upper cervical misalignment. Don’t leave an injury off your history just because it happened a decade or two ago. The misalignment may have been working under the surface for years to create changes in your spine that have led to the shoulder pain or tingling.

Natural Shoulder Pain Relief May Be Closer Than You Think

The search feature on this site can help you to identify the upper cervical practitioner nearest you. Since this subspecialty of chiropractic isn’t practiced by anywhere near as many doctors, don’t let a little bit of a drive keep you from finding safe and natural relief from the many and varied symptoms of an atlas misalignment. You may find, as many patients have, that symptoms you had no idea could be related to a neck problem suddenly begin to dissipate following just your first adjustment or two.

Plus, upper cervical chiropractors work on an as-needed basis. If your alignment holds (as is often the case due to the gentle nature of this therapy), you may also discover that this is a very cost-effective solution. Before you try to find the relief you are searching for in a bottle of pain relievers, be sure to give upper cervical chiropractic a try.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Areato schedule a consultation today.

Find an Upper Cervical Specialist In Your Area

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The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.