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How do I know if I have a Neck problem or Shoulder problem?

Neck pain can often be disguised as shoulder pain. Symptoms like pain and ache can appear in your shoulder blade, the bicep or the deltoid (side of the arm) area and your forearm. You may ask yourself, maybe it’s my rotator cuff? Do I have frozen shoulder? Neck pain or a neck injury can commonly cause shoulder and arm pain because of the nerves that come out of the neck (cervical spine) and feed the shoulder and arm muscles.

A Neck Injury or Degenerative Disc Disease
will flare up the nerves from inflammation and you’ll experience shoulder and arm pain. Trigger points in your arm may also appear and those can be quite painful.
Take a look at this picture:

Neck pain in your arm is a real thing! It’s very painful, and it indicates that your neck pain needs your attention!
Your arm will be sensitive to touch in the areas shown. You may not be able to lift your arm above your head.
These symptoms may lead you and your and possibly your doctor to think it’s a shoulder problem when it’s not…

What can you do to check if your Arm Pain is a true Shoulder problem or a Neck problem?

  1. Try turning your head to wards the painful arm, as far as you can and ask yourself if you feel discomfort in your arm (in the painful area). If you do, your arm pain is likely due to a neck problem
  2. Ask yourself, is my arm better when I’m moving around (ie. Walking) versus not moving (sitting down)? If you answered yes, your arm pain may be due to a neck problem or degenerative disc disease. * See below
  3. Consult with a physiotherapist trained in Mckenzie method. The Mckenzie method will determine the source of the pain based on the range of motion of your neck and shoulder.

Pain relief for degenerative disc disease (DDD):
for DDD in the neck, walking has been shown to help with pain relief because of the rhythmic motion of the head and neck while walking. This allows the discs in your neck to ‘breathe’ because they gently shift around and the circulation improves. Stiffening of the neck can be prevented by walking like you can see in this article.