Neck and Shoulder Pain: Causes & Treatment

neck and shoulder pain - causes and treatments

Sometimes neck and shoulder pain can sneak up on people and catch them unawares, and at other times, it could start like a little discomfort and then become more serious as time passes.

There are different degrees of neck and shoulder pain, but the fact remains that no matter the intensity of the pain, it can affect the quality of a person’s life. The pain may force a sufferer to cut down on work and leisure activities, thereby reducing their productivity and dampening their comfort.

Most times, neck pain can occur as a result of a muscular problem, from a defective nerve or from arthritis of the neck. As mentioned above, it can be mild and unnoticeable enough to be ignored, but it can also be extreme and severe. When pain in the neck and shoulder region lasts more than three months, it is called chronic neck pain. Unfortunately, the conditioned is very common, with women being the primary sufferers.

What Causes Neck and Shoulder Pain?

Neck pain can arise as a result of the following factors:

• Bad posture

Maintaining incorrect sitting, standing or walking posture can cause tension to the neck and shoulder area and lead to discomfort.

• Trauma and injury

Sports injuries are very popular causes of neck pain. Sometimes an old injury or trauma could degenerate into chronic pain. Other accidents can also lead to neck pain depending on the degree of impact.

• Prolonged stay in one position

Hunkering down in front of a computer or sitting in an office cubicle for long periods could cause kinks to develop in the shoulders, especially if the sitting posture is incorrect.

• Slipped disc
• Osteoporosis (brittle bones)

This is mostly due to advancement in age, as it is commonly found in elderly people.

• Scoliosis (deformed unnatural curvature of the spine)

 What to Expect with Neck and Shoulder Pain

common neck pain and shoulder pain

1. Pain, as well as stiffness, in the neck or surrounding areas.

2. Pain that travels from the shoulder to the rest of the body, or from one shoulder to the other.

3. It may affect the arms and may even cause headaches.

4. The muscles in the neck and shoulder may become sore and hard to the touch.

5. It may lead to a change in the position of the neck, as sufferers may try to adjust their necks to lessen the pain, or the condition itself may dictate the movement of the neck (torticollis).

6. It may cause painful tingling sensations in the hands and fingers.

Consult a Doctor

A pain in the neck can be symptomatic of other more serious conditions like meningitis. If the pain is accompanied by fever, the sensitivity of the eyes to light, vomiting, or rashes, it is imperative to visit the emergency room immediately.


  • If the pain starts after a head injury
  • If it happens concurrently with a headache
  • If it affects other senses like sight, taste and hearing
  • If there is sickness or vomiting
  • If it causes weakness in the limbs

If the listed things occur, it is important to visit a hospital.

Treatment for Neck and Shoulder Pain 

The treatment options for pain in the neck and shoulder is often informed by the cause of the pain and the severity. Sometimes the pain simply disappears on its own without medication or medical intervention. That notwithstanding, it is advisable to visit the hospital in order to get a proper diagnosis from a chiropractor or physiotherapist.

For neck problems less than three months, chiropractic or physiotherapy may be recommended along with pain relievers.

Chronic pain may need more aggressive treatment to include:

• Heating Pads

heating-pad - pickmyheatingpad.comHeating pads are great for neck and shoulder pain because it has been proven that heat can help to ease the pain. Fast-heating pads will get to work in the space of seconds, making it readily available and convenient. Some pads will even help to reduce headaches and muscle spasms.

• Muscle reconditioning and training
• Physiotherapy
• Posture correction
• Supportive pillow
• Acupuncture
• Painkillers like paracetamol, etc.

Medication for Neck and Shoulder Pain

As mentioned above, sometimes the pain can be checked with the use of mild painkillers like paracetamol, but for the more severe chronic pain, stronger medicine may be required. In this case, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often prescribed. In the case where NSAIDs are not effective or unsuitable for the patients, doctors may prescribe even stronger painkillers like codeine phosphate. Doctors are also known to prescribe muscles relaxants to aid recovery.

Tips for Better Neck and Shoulder Management

  • The pain should not disrupt day to day living. The more active you are, the better your chances of recovery.
  • Remember that most times the pain is only temporary and will go away soon.
  • You should consult a qualified doctor or physical therapist to rule out underlying health issues.
  • You should try exercise programmes that focus on strengthening the neck and shoulder muscles.

Neck and shoulder pain is a difficult condition to live with. Not only does it limit a person’s productiveness, it can also make it very difficult to relax. As more people report pains in the neck and shoulders, more treatment options have also been introduced. The use of heating pads is one of the most effective solutions to neck pain.


Madison Brown received her graduate degree from the University of Iowa from the physical therapy program. As a therapist for over five years, she has treated many patients with pain or with many physical problems. Through her experience she has learned more along the way how to best serve her patients. Her patients come into her office with all sorts of pain from head to toe. She has always made it her goal to know all the latest techniques and devices to best treat the patient in front of her. She cares about people and works for the best for her patients.

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