Neck and shoulder pain could be warning signs of THIS medical condition – Times of India

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Have you ever woken up to excruciating pain in the shoulders and neck? How often do you experience this? Have you ever thought of consulting a doctor? Or do you ignore it assuming it would wane away soon?

Many of us associate shoulder pain to bad sitting posture or sleeping position and ignore it assuming that it will go away when it has to.

Leaving pain unattended is as harmful as the pain itself.

We at ETimes spoke to experts on why one experiences neck and shoulder pain and what could be the medical conditions which trigger pain in these areas. The experts also suggested what lifestyle changes one must adopt in order to alleviate such pain.

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Common causes of neck and shoulder pain


“Sprains and strains from sports, overexertion, and poor posture are the most common causes of neck and shoulder pain,” says Dr. Satnam Singh Chhabra, Director, department of Neurosurgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital and adds that some people have stiffness in their neck, shoulder, or back as they wake up. Mattresses, pillows, and sleeping postures all have an impact on how much strain a person’s neck, shoulder, and spine suffers when sleeping.

Strains from overexertion, dislocated shoulder, spinal cord injury and damage to bones and cartilage due to arthritis also cause immense pain in shoulders.

Dr Chhabra also warns against carrying heavy shoulder bags or purses.

Frozen shoulders are also the main reason why many people experience terrible pain in shoulders and despite trying home remedies do not get any relief, the expert says.

Read: Lasting breathlessness post-COVID may indicate lung issue

What is a frozen shoulder? What are its symptoms?

Frozen shoulder, or medically termed as adhesive capsulitis is a condition characterized by stiffness with reduced movements and pain in shoulder joint. “It is commonly seen in Diabetic and post injury immobilized patients,” says Dr. Rajendra Reddy, Sr. Orthopaedic Consultant and Head of Department of Orthopaedics and Trauma, Narayana Multispeciality Hospital, HSR Layout, Bangalore.

“In this case, the capsule which is the covering layer of the joint holding the bones together becomes thick, stiff and inflamed causing adhesions and fibrosis thereby reducing the space for the Humeral head movement in the joint and reducing the range of movements,” Dr Reddy says.

This painful condition emerges slowly and advances into three stages and each stage can last for a number of months, says Dr Reddy. In the first stage, shoulder movements are painful and in due course movement restrictions are noted; pain in upper parts of arm and behind the shoulder are common. In the second stage pain improves but movements become more restrictive, stiffer and using it becomes more difficult. Pain also worsens at night and thereby significantly disturbing the sleep which can lead to a series of cascading effects that negatively affects many elements of a person’s day-to-day lifestyle, including their relationships at home and at work. In the third stage, which is also called thawing stage, in people with other obstructive pathology like bony spurs or tendinopathies the condition advances to shoulder impingement and full recovery may never be seen, the expert says.

What underlying disease can cause pain in the neck and shoulder?


Osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease and disorder in the rotator cuff which surrounds the shoulder joint and helps to keep it stable can be a cause for shoulder pain as it can damage the tissues in the shoulder, says Dr Chhabra.

When should one start taking shoulder and neck pain seriously?


In most cases, Dr Chhabra says, neck and shoulder pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem however one should get it checked if the pain continues for more days. “If the pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands or persists for several weeks without any relief or if you have shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm or if the shoulder pain is accompanied by redness or swelling then one should visit the doctor,” advises Dr Chhabra.

Hinting towards the possibility of heart attack due to shoulder pain, Dr Chhabra says, “shoulder pain should be taken seriously if the pain goes down to the chest and there’s a difficulty in breathing which can be a sign for heart attack or stroke.”

What are the lifestyle changes one must adopt?


Lifestyle changes do play an important role in managing shoulder pain, says Dr Reddy. Diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish contain proteolytic enzymes and Omega 3 fatty acids are known to be helpful, while a reduction in carbohydrates and saturated trans fats can do wonders.

He advises cutting down on a sedentary lifestyle and having more physical activity.

“One should pay attention to posture and sleeping position. Don’t sleep on the affected side and during sleeping on back do always use a pillow under the affected arm, with the hand resting on the stomach,” says Dr Reddy.

On self medications which people often take during pain, Dr Reddy says “if self medications are not helpful in a couple of weeks, it may never be helpful. Seeking medical advice in these situations is important to prevent further damage and aid in faster recovery.”

Few common questions related to neck and shoulder pain answered:

  1. What causes neck and shoulder pain?
    Sprains and strains from sports, overexertion, and poor posture, overexertion, dislocated shoulder, spinal cord injury, frozen shoulder and damage to bones and cartilage cause neck and shoulder pain.
  2. When is shoulder pain serious?
    When the pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in arms or hands or persists for several weeks or if there is shooting pain in shoulder or down the arm or if the shoulder pain is accompanied by redness or swelling one should contact doctor.
  3. How to cure shoulder pain?
    Lifestyle changes can help cure the pain. Diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, reduction in carbohydrates and saturated trans fats, cutting down on a sedentary lifestyle, having more physical activity and paying attention to posture can cure the pain.
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