Is my pain coming from my neck or my shoulder?
Pain originating from the shoulder is usually felt on the front or outer part of the shoulder and commonly in the upper third of the arm. It may radiate down to the elbow and in severe cases you may feel a dull ache as far down your arm as the wrist. Affected shoulder structures do not usually cause pain to be felt above the shoulder or into the neck. Therefore, if pain is felt between the point of the shoulder and the neck, or in the region of the shoulder blade, it is unlikely to be coming from the shoulder. A shoulder problem will not give you a sensation of pins and needles, or numbness, in the hand.
Pain originating from the neck will generally cause some pain or aching near the base of the neck or into the shoulder blade. However, the most pain may also be felt between the neck and shoulder. It may spread into the shoulder and upper arm, and extend below the elbow to the wrist or hand. Pain from a neck problem may also be associated with a sensation of pins and needles or numbness.
If the pain is coming from your neck, we recommend the best-selling book Treat Your Own Neck.
A word of caution
In any of the following situations you should not commence the exercise programme without first consulting your health professional
- If you have associated neck or upper back pain (see Diagnosing Your Problem below).
- If you have severe pain in the arm below the elbow and experience sensations of weakness, numbness or pins and needles in the hand and fingers.
- If you have suddenly developed shoulder problems following a recent severe accident such as a heavy fall onto an outstretched arm resulting in a major loss of movement, or visible bruising.
- If you are generally feeling unwell in conjunction with your shoulder pain.
- If you have a previous history of cancer or a tumour.
- If you develop chest pain with activity or have a history of cardiac or heart problems.
- If you have had shoulder surgery in the past six months.
- If you have a history of repeated dislocation of your shoulder, or have dislocated it recently.If you suffer from any of the above you may wish to seek advice from a health professional