When you’re experiencing shoulder discomfort, it’s natural to assume that the pain is coming from somewhere within the joint, or maybe the muscles immediately adjacent. But the truth is that a lot of time, pain in the shoulder is what is known as referred pain that originates from other parts of the body. This can include points as far away as the elbow or diaphragm and as close as the neck. The shoulder is particularly vulnerable to referred pain, so assuming that an ice pack and rest on the part that hurts can be a big mistake.
Though shoulder pain can be an indication of something as serious as heart problems or a tumor, it is much more common for it to come from a problem with the neck or cervical spine, especially if the pain is felt in the shoulder itself. When there is actually an injury to the shoulder, the sensation tends to be felt lower down, in the top of the arm, and the shoulder doesn’t move freely. That’s why making an appointment with a cervical spine specialist in New Jersey is one of the first things you should consider if your shoulder pain doesn’t go away in a short period of time. Because the muscles and nerves that come from the neck have to pass through and near the shoulder, pain felt there may actually be a result of a herniated cervical disc, with the pain being felt in the scapula or the trapezius muscle which is located on the top of the shoulder.
When shoulder pain originates from the neck, there are some telltale signs that a cervical spine specialist can quickly pinpoint. Some of these include weakness of the rotator cuff muscles or shoulder stiffness, changes in gait, and what is known as long tract signs. Long tract signs, including abnormal reflexes or spasticity, tend to indicate significant spinal cord compression, or myelopathy. If your physician finds these signs present, they will likely order an MRI or CT scan in order to confirm diagnosis and set a treatment course. In other cases, shoulder pain can be one of the notable symptoms of a previously undiagnosed spinal fracture irritating the muscles.
When you are experiencing shoulder pain or weakness that is interfering with your quality of life and your ability to perform your normal daily activities, you need to seek assistance. Shoulder pain can be an indication of nerves being irritated or damaged. Myelopathy and other neck problems can be treated in a number of different ways, ranging from non-invasive treatments to spine surgery to remove pressure on the spinal cord and stop the condition from getting any worse. To learn more and see what kind of help is available to you, contact our cervical spine practice in New Jersey to find a convenient time for an appointment.