Have you experienced pain in your shoulder or into your arm that just didn’t go away after having treatment?

This might be because the origin of your shoulder pain may be located in your neck, meaning treatment targeted solely at the shoulder isn’t addressing the root cause your symptoms. It is a common issue we treat here in the clinic and something that’s often missed in the assessment of ‘shoulder’ issues. At Thrive Physio Plus we ensure through a thorough physical assessment that the involvement of neck issues is addressed before commencing treatment on the shoulder.

What do you mean? Surely pain in my shoulder is a result of something in my shoulder?
Surprisingly, not always! The neck can very often masquerade as pain in the shoulder as the two are connected by multiple nerve pathways. The nerves that supply our shoulder and arm exit through the vertebrae in our neck, travel around your shoulder joint, into your upper arm and then all the way down into your hand. When these nerve exit they have to travel through multiple structures such as muscles and tendons in order to supply your entire arm. These nerves can get irritated at any point long this journey, commonly at the level of your pec muscles (the muscles in front of your shoulder joint) or as they are exiting your neck (particularly if you have had neck issues in the past).

Things to look out for if you are thinking your neck may be the culprit:

  • Pain radiates into shoulder blade/ side of neck:For example, if there is pain in the upper trapezius as well as into the shoulder.
  • Pain is very vague and not localised.
  • Vague ache into upper arm or forearm or even into hand.
  • Previous neck issues.
  • Persists at rest.
  • Pins and needles or tingling into arm:  Irritated nerves can cause pins and needles, tingling and strange sensations.

OR: None of these things at all, neck pain can present exactly as shoulder pain in some instances!

What can we do to help?
Firstly, manual therapy to the neck yields great results. Secondly, Improving nerve mobility, a term that essentially refers to how well our nerves move and glide. Depending on where you feel your symptoms, there are a few different nerve gliding exercises we can prescribe that can help relieve symptoms in the short and long term. Hands on release of the stiff and tight structures in your neck can also provide short term relief of symptoms.
In the long term, once your symptoms have settled the aim of management is to improve the strength and the ability of your neck and shoulder to cope with what you’re asking of it. Whether that may be the exercise you engage in, or just your day to day activities, we can achieve this through targeted strength and mobility work.

What to do if you think you might be experiencing some of these symptoms?
See one of our highly skilled physiotherapists for a thorough examination. It is important to determine the exact cause of your shoulder pain in order to provide a tailored treatment and get you back on the right track.

As always, if you need help with a management plan to get you back to your physical best and doing all that you love, call the clinic on 8490 0777 or book online hereWe treat referred pain like this everyday and would love to help!


– The Thrive Physio Plus Team