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Shoulder Problems May be Just a Pain in the Neck

Aug 23, 2008
Are you experiencing pain or loss of movement in your shoulder? Do you have pain radiating down your arm or does it go numb if held in certain positions? Have you noticed a loss of use in typing speed or motor function? Did you know that this may be resulting from muscles in your neck and back?

Really, if you are experiencing symptoms ranging from pain and numbness in your arms to stiff or sore joins in your shoulder, shoulder blade, elbows or wrists it maybe be caused by muscles, tendons, and pinched nerved in your neck and possibly upper back.

Signs and Symptoms:
Impingement syndrome, rotator cuff injury, shoulder joint tendonitis, carpotunnel syndrome, pain or numbness that radiates down from the shoulder and into the hand, and muscle weakness are all disorders caused by points in your neck and back. These points may be a pinched spinal nerve or muscle spasm. Muscles in your back may be so over worked or injured that they contract and do not release. These tightened muscles will then pinch off nerves causing you pain.

What does this have to do with your neck? Most of the muscles that cause this type of pain are attached to your neck and upper back. The nerves along the part of your spine that we call the neck may be pinched off due to the spasmming of the muscles. There are many shoulder joint pain issues and associated problems. Most people and their family care physicians rarely think about muscles in the neck and upper back that involve the shoulder. One of these muscles is called the levator scapulae and is integral to the mobility of your shoulder. This muscle originates on the shoulder blade and is attached to your neck. This muscle elevates the scapula which is engaged anytime there is a need of motion in the shoulder or arm.

Then there is the subscapularis muscle which attaches the shoulder cuff to the spine and attaches along the spin from the base of the neck to just above middling of your anterior rib section. It is called the subscapula simply because it is beneath all the other muscles and your scapula.

Another muscle that is always involved is the trapezius muscle. This muscle connects into the upper part of your neck which extends longitudinally from the occipital bone to the lower thoracic vertebrae, and laterally to the spine of the scapula.

All of these muscles are continually called upon to make the range of motion and strength in our shoulders, arms, and hands possible. However, due to injury or over use they may become tight, or contract so tightly that they pinch off vital nerves and blood vessels. This further causes damage to the shoulder area because when nerves and blood vessels are pinched off the brain and heart cannot send messages to repair and rebuild the area.

How to Find Relief?
If you have shoulder problems or are experiences one of the symptoms above the first thing you should concentrate on is stretching the muscles in your upper back and neck. Stretching the muscles attached to your neck is one of the most important things you can do to help alleviate the pain and affect a cure for shoulder pain.

1. The first stretch would be to bring your chin to your chest and stretch the trapezius muscle. Then bring your head back gently and stretch the front of your neck. Now slowly try to touch your ear to your shoulder on either side being sure to exaggerate the movement so you feel a good stretch along the muscles on the opposite side of your neck. Then bring your arms across your chest and place your hand just above your elbow and pull your arm towards your chest.

2. Next, back up to a wall and stand up straight. Be sure that your heels, bottom, shoulders, and back of your head are place evenly against the wall. Try to tuck your chin in by rotating your head down, in other words, try to flatten your neck against the wall without moving your body or head very much. Feel that nice stretch?

3. Lean against the wall facing forward at a 90 degree angle, palms out in front open and against the wall. Walk your hands up and down the wall and increase the angle which your body is in relation to the wall. Perform the same exercise again but this time with your palms down and the back of your hands against the wall.

4. Finally stretch your arms out as if you are trying to push two walls away from you on either side of your body. Bring your palms outward and push as if two invisible walls were coming at you from either side. Rotate your hands forward and your elbows back so that your shoulders rotate forward. Move your arms slowly down and back as if you were now pushing yourself off of an invisible wall. Be sure to maintain an upright posture throughout this stretch and really push out from your body as if pushing against an object. When your arms are in the last position you should feel the muscles from the base of your skull all the way down your back and all the way down your arms stretch.

Be sure to perform each of these stretches for 20 to 30 seconds. Please repeat them as necessary throughout the day. If you have an office job, or use your arms and shoulders a lot in construction or sports you should stop and perform the full routine about every hour. It should take you about 4 minutes. If the pain still persists after about a week, then please see a specialist about the source of the pain. Your shoulder pain may just be a pain in your neck. Or more correctly a pain caused by pinched nerves or over used muscles in your neck and upper back. In addition to keeping your muscles fully stretched and pliable you may also consider A.R.T. therapy, Fenzian Treatment, chiropractic care, and Active Isolated

About the Author
Dr. Vasili Gatsinaris is a native of Southern California who graduated with a degree in Biology from the University of California Irvine and received his doctorate from Los Angeles Chiropractic College. Gatsinaris is the Founder of Next Level Wellness Center in Irvine.
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