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  • Writer's pictureDr. Brandon

3 Keys to Relieving Neck and Shoulder Pain

Are you dealing with shoulder pain that seems to have come “out of nowhere”? Or shoulder pain from sleeping wrong? Or, have you been trying to strengthen your rotator cuff but are still having shoulder pain? One of the questions we often get asked is “why does my shoulder hurt?’ Often they’ve had an MRI or X-ray that “didn’t find anything” or were told there was “nothing they could do about it”. This often happens because the wrong area was being looked at. How can this be? Shoulder and neck pain are two of the more common conditions that we see at Body Mechanix and that often go hand in hand with each other. The neck and upper back are two of the most likely causes of shoulder pain especially when you haven’t had a specific injury to the shoulder and when the pain “came out of nowhere”.Jump to 3 keys to relieving neck and shoulder pain So, how can this be? When the neck is involved, it all comes down to your nervous system. When we have pain, our nerves have sent a message to the body that “something might be off” and the body decides what to do about this message. Now, the nerves that serve the shoulder all start in the neck. If you’ve had a pinched nerve in the neck, you know that the pain can sometimes travel down your arm. Now, if the neck is only slightly off, then the nerves there become more sensitive. Not only does this sensitivity feel like stiffness in the neck but can also actually produce pain and stiffness in the shoulder as well. So, while you may be treating the shoulder, maybe icing it or using topical pain relief, the actual problem was elsewhere and the shoulder was merely the victim(more on that later). Get your free neck guide We also mentioned the upper back as the other area that can cause shoulder pain and stiffness. How? Try this experiment, stand up as tall as you can and reach overhead. Notice how high you can reach(if dealing with pain on one side, reach with your good side). Now, hunch over with and try the same thing. Can’t reach as far, right? Why? Because when the shoulder reaches, it needs the upper back to be able to move and open up so you can reach overhead. When you can’t do that, you can get shoulder impingement as the tendons and bursa in the shoulder get pinched when you’re reaching overhead or lifting overhead.

3 Keys to Fixing Neck and Shoulder Pain

Key Number 1: Identify the Source

The first key to relieving neck and shoulder pain is making sure that you are treating the right thing. Shoulder pain and especially shoulder pain when there is no obvious cause or when you wake up with neck or shoulder pain often has a cause other than the shoulder joint, the rotator cuff, or true impingement. More often than not, the neck or upper back at least has a partial role in the achiness or stiffness of the shoulder. At Body Mechanix, we diagnose this through a series of usually pain free motions of the neck and upper back to determine how much of a role they are playing in shoulder pain.(Would you like to get to the bottom of why your shoulder is hurting, for free? Request your Total Body Diagnostic Test-only 4 available per week)

Key Number 2: Avoid Prolonged Rest

While rest is often prescribed after an injury, it is often overused and often leads to more pain, stiffness, and a longer recovery(especially the longer the pain has gone on like with chronic pain). I get it-resting and lying down seems to help but...there is a ton of evidence that prolonged resting is one of the worst things you can do to recover from your neck or shoulder . It leads to

  • Higher levels of pain and stiffness

  • Reduced flexibility and muscle strength

  • A slower(and often worse) recovery

  • More time away from work

By performing gentle exercises and staying active, your pain will recover faster than just resting(and will often cost far less in time, money, and suffering). And when you are treating the source(after you’ve identified it), you often see a faster recovery and are able to get back to what you want to be doing(and it isn’t shoulder rehabilitation).

Key Number 3: Move Early, Well, and Often

Unless you are immediately after a surgery, there are only a few occasions when absolute rest is the right thing to do. For most people, especially when their pain started for no apparent reason or they’ve been dealing with the pain for far longer than they should(and if you’ve been dealing with pain longer than about 3 weeks, you are in that camp) beginning gentle motion including working towards easing stiffness and building strength in the shoulder are the keys to a quicker and more long lasting recovery for your shoulder. It is often the second phase of recovery at Body Mechanix(after we’ve figured out why you were hurting and started fixing the source of your pain) where we then fix the foundation of why you started hurting in the first place.

For some, these keys only start them feeling better but some will plateau in their recovery Why? Often because some of the underlying causes remain untreated. Often our nervous system becomes so sensitive that these fixes only partly calm down our nerves, ease our stiff necks or loosen tight muscles. Sometimes if you look online and try stretches or exercises that only aggravate our spine, muscles, or pinch nerves that then trigger a new headache, neck pain, or pain down the arm. Often there are other natural solutions to fix shoulder pain. That’s why Body Mechaix offers free consultations to get to the root cause of your neck or shoulder pain.

During one of our free consultations, the Total Body Diagnostic, we offer expert advice about the worry and frustration of life-changing aches and pains – for FREE, in under 30 minutes.

If this article describes your story and you are looking for some help with neck or shoulder pain, we offer FREE consultations, which give you the opportunity to come in and meet us and see for yourself how we can help you.

Here are just a few of the things you will learn in one of our free consultation:

  • What is the underlying cause of your pain? (hopefully nothing too serious!)

  • Roughly, how long will it take to fix the problem?

  • What to do to help – which doesn’t include painkillers, resting or surgery etc.

  • What other, natural, drug free methods are there to speed up recovery alongside treatment?

Our consultations are great for anyone that may be “unsure” if physio is right for them, and they give you the opportunity to ask questions and see for yourself if we can help you.

If you’d like one of our limited free consultation sessions, please click here to request your Total Body Diagnostic or CALL us on 850-765-2779 to make a no-obligation enquiry.

About the author

Brandon Alkire, DPT, CSCS, FMS, Cert. DN

Doctor of Physical Therapy and Strength Coach

Dr. Brandon is the owner and a Physio at Body Mechanix Physiotherapy and Fitness. Four of his favorite people call him daddy while he's been married to his other favorite person for over 18 years. He enjoys teaching martial arts and is a Mestrando in Capoeira while in the mornings, he can be found working out with the guys in F3 around town.

He's the author of 4 pain relief guides for neck, low back, shoulder, and knees and the lead contributor to the Active Tallahassee Blog.


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