Practice Health: Shoulder problems? Such a pain in the neck
by Meghan Palmer
Special to The Star
May 05, 2013 | 5242 views |  0 comments | 257 257 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’s a basic chiropractic tenant that shoulder problems are really neck problems. Nerves travel from the spinal cord in the neck, through the shoulder, all the way down to the arms and hands. It is also true that problems starting in the shoulder can, and often do, travel from shoulder to neck.

Shoulders can be injured from any number of things. Overuse with hard and/or repetitive labor can cause inflammation in the shoulder joints, muscle spasms, even micro-tears in the muscles, ligaments or tendons. An outright injury to the shoulder from a fall or blow can cause bruising and damage to the muscles, joints and bones in the area. Even little stuff like sleeping on your shoulder wrong or being tense at work can set up the perfect conditions for a shoulder injury.

Even if the original problem is 100 percent, without-a-doubt in the shoulder, do not neglect caring for your neck and spine as part of the shoulder rehab. This is important. Many key muscles attach to both the shoulder and the small bones of your cervical spine. A spasm in one of these muscles can impede optimal movement in the neck and upper back, which can in turn cause inflammation and pressure on the nerves communicating with the shoulder and arm — causing a brutal cycle of shoulder-neck-shoulder problems. What started as shoulder pain and loss of motion can become headaches, dizziness, neck pain, tension or loss of motion, all because there is an intimate connection in the nerves and muscles between your shoulder and neck.

The good news about this connection is that you can improve the health of your cervical spine by doing shoulder exercises and stretches.

If you injure your shoulder, be sure to ice it right away. Heat is relaxing and feels good, but it brings in more fluid and causes worse swelling. A good rule to remember is that ice is best for the initial injury. If gently stretching, icing and resting does not ease your symptoms within a few days, then consult a health professional. Your chiropractor will likely adjust the shoulder, neck and upper back, restoring the function of those joints and easing the nerves. Your doctor may even decide it’s necessary to take an X-ray.

If the problem requires more invasive intervention, an orthopedist or your family physician will be able to help you with the next step. They may suggest more imaging procedures, shots into the joint or physical therapy. Surgery for the repair of a severe injury could be necessary, but only as a last resort.

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Practice Health: Shoulder problems? Such a pain in the neck by Meghan Palmer
Special to The Star

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