What Is Causing My Neck and Shoulder Pain?

Published by Shauna Burchett, OTR/L on

Many of us experience neck and shoulder pain, as there is so much we do with our hands; however, if we’re experiencing more than our fair share, it seems it’s likely that it has very much to do with how we use our bodies, not just our hands. Our posture and body mechanics, as well as what our lifestyle entails, has everything to do with our neck and shoulder pain. This is also not limited to other pains in the body that are affected by the way we move, as it’s all connected.

Many symptoms can be traced back to when we were younger, and the activities that we participated in that have left their mark changing the way we moved our bodies. Such as high-impact sports with multiple soft-tissue injuries, to falling off a bicycle, or spraining our ankle or wrist.  These, and endless others, change the way we walked or moved from that moment on. This will have impacted the way we have moved and compensated over time. For whatever reasons we are experiencing neck and shoulder pain, there is a lot to be gained when you can improve your posture, body mechanics, and mobility with skilled treatment, education and a lifestyle program that fits your individual needs.  We do not all have the same bodies nor did we all have the same injuries, therefore we cannot all be treated the same. Half the battle is understanding and changing the way we move to improve our quality of life.

Forward head and shoulder posture means that our head and shoulders have migrated forward and down as our upper back curve increases and the front of our chest depresses inward. With time and continued imbalanced activity the neck, shoulders and arms become more limited in mobility. We may experience pain in the shoulder joints as they begin to roll forward and down causing them to function in a position that is actually wearing away the tendons, muscles and tissues, which may lead to popping and pain symptoms. Increased neck stiffness usually goes along with this which may also bring on headaches as the head has to change position to meet the needs of restricted shoulders. Other symptoms may also be pain, numbness and tingling in the forearms, wrists or fingers, limited shoulder range of motion due to pain, restricted side-to-side turning of the neck, and difficulty looking upward. If allowed to progress without treatment or education the symptoms will usually progress to painful and limited function decreasing our quality of life and ability to fulfill our duties.  This can sometimes lead to surgery to repair muscles and tendons that have been damaged or torn over time. The cost, pain and time it takes to rehabilitate from neck or shoulder surgery will vary for each individual, but often many weeks of recovery are required.  However, the frequently overlooked skilled therapy needed for this before and after surgery is also postural education, movement education, and manual mobilization of restricted joints and tissues, along with pain management. Seeking skilled treatment before hand may reduce chances for any needed surgery in the future depending on a person’s specific condition.  Unfortunately, not everyone visits the doctor before they have started to create irreversible damage to their body. Early intervention is optimal. There are many other activities you can take part in, such as yoga or tai chi, that will help improve posture, strength and flexibility.  Remember to consult your doctor first before starting an exercise program.

Synergy Healthcare offers physical therapy and occupational therapy in Spokane Valley, WA. Our highly trained therapists are ready to get you back on track fast! We try to prepare helpful articles that can help enrich your life. Have a question you want answered? Email us at info@synergyspokane.com or call at 509-413-1630 for more information. Comment below or give us a shout-out on Facebook– we love to hear whats on your mind!


Shauna Burchett, OTR/L

Shauna Burchett, OTR/L is a skilled occupational therapist and the owner of Synergy Healthcare. She graduated from the University of Alberta in 1993 with a degree in Occupational Therapy. Shauna began her career as an occupational therapist specializing in traumatic head injuries. She has also worked in skilled nursing facilities specializing in long and short term geriatric rehabilitation. Shauna has been in private practice since 1998.