What Is the Best Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain?

What Is the Best Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Are you suffering from neck and shoulder pain? Looking for the best treatment for neck and shoulder pain, it is very common for people to have pain in their neck and shoulder region. Many times this pain is because of muscle strains caused by bad posture. Having pain in the neck and shoulder region can make performing your daily activities unpleasant and lower your quality of life.

Pain is not inherently bad though. Pain is one of our body’s self-preservation mechanisms and it prevents us from putting ourselves in harm’s way. Still, pain is undesirable and that’s why we got everything you need to know about neck and shoulder pain and how to treat it. This includes both medicines and exercises for quick relief.

If you have severe pain, the best course of action for your pain is to set up an appointment with your doctor. The contents of this article will help to inform you about what causes the pain and what are some red signs to be on the lookout for. With that out of the way, let us get into it! 

Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain

If the pain in your neck region lasts over 12 weeks, it is called chronic pain. Neck and shoulder pain can become chronic if you have medical conditions such as pinched nerve, cervical osteoarthritis, herniated discs, or bad sleeping habits and postures. Among all of these, pain due to bad sleeping habits is the most common.

Sometimes you might feel pain in the neck and shoulder region that originates from a problem in another part of the body. A pain that originates in one part of the body and is felt in another part is called radiating pain. Almost every condition that gives rise to radiating pain is a medical emergency. The side of the body affected can tell us more about the actual problem but more on that later.

Neck and shoulder pain is concerning because most medical conditions that cause pain in this region affect the spine and nerves. Since it is such a sensitive area, you should be ready to consult a doctor at the first sign of trouble. Here is a quick overview of all the medical conditions we discussed above.

Pinched nerves (Cervical radiculopathy)

Cervical radiculopathy, commonly called pinched nerve, is a condition where a spinal nerve feels pressure from something pressing on top of it. This can be caused by deformation of the spine from arthritis, a displaced spinal disc, or swelling due to some infection in the area. 

Symptoms

  • Numbness in arm
  • Pain in the neck or arm
  • Weakness in arms
  • Tingling sensations in arms

Causes

  • Aging
  • Herniation (protruding) of cervical disks

Cervical osteoarthritis

Cervical osteoarthritis is similar to cervical radiculopathy. In osteoarthritis, there is a deformation of the spinal bones. The deformation includes the growth of bone spurs and the narrowing of disc spaces in the spine. This can put pressure on the nerve and cause pain similar to cervical radiculopathy.

The thing that sets them apart is that osteoarthritis is very common. It affects well over 85% of people over the age of 60 and it gets worse gradually. Over time it develops into cervical radiculopathy.

Symptoms

  • Neck pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Headaches
  • Numbness in shoulders, arms, and neck
  • Weakness in arms
  • Ear pain in some cases

Causes

  • Deformation with age

Muscle strains

Sometimes the reason you have pain in your neck and shoulders is that you slept in the wrong position. You can also end up having pain in the neck and shoulders if you tried to lift some weight that your body was not accustomed to.

Shoulder and back muscle strains can leave you with pain that usually goes away on its own after a while. If the pain is not improving even after some time has passed, it is most likely due to bad sleeping posture. Keep in mind that our body’s muscles sprain when they are extended for too long in a bad position.

Sprains from the gym, jerks, or unsafe lifting of weights are not chronic. Conversely, sprains and stiffness in the neck and shoulders from bad sleep posture are chronic as long as the sleep posture is not corrected. You might also need a neck collar to help with your recovery depending on how bad your sprain is.

Symptoms

  • Pain in the neck and shoulders
  • Stiffness in neck
  • Inability to move the neck due to pain

Causes

  • Bad sleeping posture (chronic until fixed)
  • Overtraining
  • Jerks

Frozen shoulder

Shoulder problems

Frozen shoulder is a vicious cycle. Usually, the only way for a person to develop a frozen shoulder is to not move their shoulders for a very long time. Situations like recovering from an operation, stroke, or accident, can lead to frozen shoulders if no physical therapy is provided. In the same way, bedridden people might develop frozen shoulders too.

When you have a frozen shoulder, it becomes increasingly painful to try and move your shoulder joint. In turn, if you do not move the shoulder, it becomes worse. Thus, as said before, it is a vicious cycle.

If you recently had a long recovery period without movement, you might have developed a frozen shoulder in its initial stages. Although it will resolve itself normally with simple movements, you should let your doctor know for better advice.

Symptoms:

  • Pain in shoulder movements
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty moving the shoulder joint

Causes

  • A prolonged period without any shoulder movement

Cancers

Pain in the neck region can also stem from cancer. Like most other kinds of cancers, the most common cause of neck and head cancer is excessive consumption of alcohol and smoking. There’s no way to self-diagnose cancer and you need to undergo tests recommended by your doctor to find out.

Cancer gets worse over time and will be fatal if left unchecked or diagnosed too late. If you smoke or drink alcohol, you should consult your doctor.

Fractures and dislocation

Fracturing or dislocating the shoulder joint can also cause long-lasting pain. Upper body fractures heal in 3 weeks but can take longer if not properly cared for. In the same way, any physical injury to the neck region can cause a fracture that can cause pain for a few weeks.

Neck and Shoulder Pain on Left side

Medically, it does not matter what side of the neck and shoulders the pain is felt. However, in the case of stable angina (lack of oxygen supply to the heart), the pain may radiate toward one of the arms. In most cases, it radiates towards the left side. Angina can progress toward heart failure and requires immediate medical attention.

Still, it should be kept in mind that pain on the left side of the neck and shoulder does not represent heart conditions. It is only a red flag if you feel chest pain along with pain on side of the neck and shoulder. There can also be pain felt in the jaw, back, and arms in case of heart failure. If there is no chest pain, the cause is most likely something else. Most people have pain on one side because of bad sleeping positions.

Neck and Shoulder Pain on Right side

Similar to pain on the left side, the pain from angina can radiate towards the right side of the neck and shoulder. Apart from heart conditions, pain from gallstones always radiates towards the right side of the neck. If you feel pain in the abdominal area and the right side of your neck, there’s a high chance you have gallstones.

Neck and Shoulder Pain Exercises

It must have occurred to you while reading all the causes of chronic neck and shoulder pain that most of them are things that require medical attention. You’re right, the neck is a very sensitive area of the body. Pain in the neck and shoulder region mostly comes from some problems with the nerves and spine.

Still, you can exercise your neck and shoulders to prevent health problems from arising. Physical therapy exercises are great for chronic pain relief. It can help restore the freedom of movement of your neck and shoulders.

You should keep in mind that the purpose of the exercise is to restore the full range of motion of a joint and muscle. Pain that arises from muscle, tendon, or ligament strains can be relieved and improved with physiotherapy. Pain caused by bone-related medical conditions such as arthritis or fractures can’t be improved with exercise. In fact, trying to exercise with fractures might worsen your condition.

You don’t need a specific exercise for most neck and shoulder problems. The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint of the human body second only to the wrist. As such, you can just move the shoulder as usual to exercise. Remember not to overexert yourself and stop the motion if the pain flares up. You should still consult a physiotherapist for a better exercise plan.

What is the Fastest Way to Relieving Neck and Shoulder Pain?

What is the Fastest Way to Relieving Neck and Shoulder Pain

The quickest way to relieve neck and shoulder pain is to administer a painkiller shot to the affected region. This of course requires approval from the doctor and only they are authorized to administer such a thing.

The general rule is, that any pain that prevents you from falling asleep is severe and should prompt a visit to the doctor. If you are unable to immediately see a doctor, you can lessen the pain using over-the-counter painkillers to make it bearable. You can use both topical as well as oral painkillers while waiting for a visit to the doctor.

A painkiller shot works nearly instantly and is normally only given to patients in extreme pain. You can expect topical and oral painkillers to begin reducing the pain between 15-60 minutes depending on the potency and acting speed of the drug.

The intensity of pain is subjective, there is no universal threshold for you to take painkillers at. Over-the-counter painkillers mostly do not have any adverse side effects unless they are taken habitually and multiple times a day.

What is the Best Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain at Home?

Here are some home remedies you can try to alleviate the pain

Heat and Ice – If there is some swelling, you can use ice or cold water to reduce it, doing so will also reduce the pain. Ice is good for the first 2-3 days, after that use heat to relieve pain. Don’t apply them non-stop either, otherwise, you will injure the skin.

Gentle massage – You can gently massage the affected area, doing so would relieve some pain. Keep in mind though that pain due to fractures or arthritis will not get better with massages.

Painkillers – Taking over-the-counter painkillers can help relieve pain while at home. Make sure you do not overdose on them. Pain is bad but too many painkillers is worse.

Acupuncture – You can try acupuncture treatment to relieve your pain. While acupuncture can’t be administered by everyone, your doctor might be able to recommend some experienced acupuncturists for you. Acupuncture is not for everyone, but in some cases, it is proven to work.

Takeaway

Pain in the neck and shoulder region should be taken seriously, especially if you are experiencing it for the first time. Depending on what other symptoms you have with the neck and shoulder pain, your situation can be life-threatening.

Pain due to muscles and ligament injuries is usually not very serious and subsides by itself. Apart from that, every other reason for the pain needs you to book an appointment with the doctor immediately. In cases like chest pain, rush to the emergency room.

The way to relieve the pain depends on what the cause of the pain is. If the cause is some underlying disease or medical condition, the only way to relieve the pain would be to take painkillers and undergo treatment for the medical condition.

Physical exercise can be helpful in some cases for the pain, but you should still consult your doctor before attempting to exercise. Some conditions might worsen if you exercise.

FAQs

Can Covid cause neck and shoulder pain?

Covid-19 does not particularly target your neck and shoulders. Your entire body might ache including your shoulders and neck. Neck and shoulder pain, when alone, is not a sign of Covid-19.

How do you get rid of neck and shoulder nerve pain?

Pain that arises from irritation of a nerve requires surgical procedures to get rid of. You can lessen the pain with over-the-counter painkillers if surgery is not an option for you yet.

Best way to get rid of neck pain naturally?

Depending on the cause of the pain, the best way can be just exercising and stretching. On the other hand, in the worst scenarios, you will need extensive medication and surgical procedures to treat the pain. Consult your doctor for the best option for you.

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