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Conditions: Advice

Neck & shoulder pain, Courtyard Clinic © 2011



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Neck and Shoulder Pain

If you have ever experienced neck or shoulder pain, you will know how it can disrupt everyday activities. Pain in these areas is usually caused by damage to the soft tissues – the muscles, ligaments and tendons. Neck pain and sometimes shoulder pain, can also be caused when the neck joints become irritated.

How can the cause of my pain be diagnosed?
There are seven vertebrae in the neck (the cervical vertebrae), these bony building blocks of the spine are separated by discs and the nerves in the neck run alongside them. As we get older changes in the structure of the neck can occur causing stiffness, restricted movement and in some cases, pinched nerves. A trauma such as whiplash or a sports injury may also cause structural damage. In diagnosing the cause of neck or shoulder pain it is important to review the history of the symptoms. An osteopath will take note of any past injury and the location, intensity, duration and radiation of the pain. Positions or motions that relieve or aggravate the pain are also noted. The neck is examined at rest and in motion and an examination of the nervous system is performed to determine whether or not nerve involvement is present.

Have I got a trapped nerve?
Trapped nerves can cause a great deal of discomfort. Typically they can cause pain in the shoulder, arm and upper back. In some cases tingling or numbness can be felt in the hand and your arm can feel weak.

Can neck & shoulder problems cause headaches?
Headaches are very common with neck problems and are usually easily resolved. However it is important to ascertain the exact cause of the headache. Your Osteopath will take a very detailed medical history and undertake specific tests to ensure that neck problems are the cause of your symptoms. If your Osteopath feels that your headache is unrelated to your neck pain you will be referred to your GP for further consultation.

Can I improve and maintain movement in my neck?
Many people visit our clinic when they are having trouble moving their neck, particularly when driving, e.g. when reversing or turning their head at junctions. In the vast majority of cases osteopathic treatment will improve movement and flexibility.

Hot or cold?
Generally, if you experience sudden shoulder or neck pain, use a cold compress to the back of the neck or on to the shoulder for 10 minutes at a time – frozen peas wrapped in a damp tea towel will do the job. This will reduce inflammation, which will help to reduce pain. Using a cold compress is usually recommended following a sudden onset of pain for 2-3 days, following this you should first apply heat e.g. wheat bag or hot water bottle for 10 mins followed by cold as above 3 times a day. If the pain doesn’t get any better within 2 to 3 days a more in-depth diagnosis and specific treatment may be required from your Osteopath.