What is shoulder and neck pain?
In order to learn how to help neck and shoulder pain, we must learn what it is. Your neck and shoulders contain muscles, bones, nerves, arteries and veins, as well as many ligaments and other support structures. Many conditions can cause pain in the neck and shoulder area. Some threaten life (such as a heart attack or serious trauma), and others are not as dangerous (such as simple tensions or bruises).
Your doctor may order imaging tests to get a better picture of the cause of neck pain. Examples include:
- X-rays. X-rays may reveal areas in your neck where your nerves or spinal cord may be pricked by bone spurs or other degenerative changes.
- Computed tomography. CT scans combine X-ray images taken from different directions to produce detailed cross-section views of the internal structures of your neck.
- Magnetic resonance. MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of bones and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and nerves that come from the spinal cord.
- Physical therapy. A physiotherapist can teach you correct posture, alignment, and neck strengthening exercises, and you can use heat, ice, electrical stimulation, and other measures to help relieve your pain and prevent a recurrence.
- Traction. The traction uses weights, pulleys or an air bladder to gently stretch the neck. This therapy, under the supervision of a medical professional and a physiotherapist, can relieve neck pain, especially pain related to nerve root irritation.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar that supports your neck can help relieve pain by removing pressure from the structures in your neck. However, if used for more than three hours in a row or for more than one or two weeks, a collar can do more harm than good.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes placed on your skin near painful areas produce small electrical impulses that can relieve pain. This device is most useful when learning how to help neck and shoulder pain.
Learn more about how to help neck and shoulder pain here.