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Neck and shoulder pain

Neck pain, or a stiff neck, and shoulder pain are common complaints. Often tension is experienced in both areas at the same time.

Neck pain

This includes conditions such as neck strain, neck sprain, whiplash, and other neck disorders.

Neck pain or a stiff neck often occurs as a result of bending your neck into an abnormal position, for example, by sleeping on too many pillows. Other causes include poor posture. As neck pain often occurs as a result from everyday activities, an obvious cause is often difficult to detect and so the pain is often referred to as ‘non-specific’ by doctors.

Neck pain occurs when the neck suddenly feels tight, it becomes uncomfortable or tension in the neck is felt when the head is moved up and down or even to the sides. Neck pain or stiffness usually gets better after a few days or weeks and is rarely a sign of any neck problem or serious underlying condition. If the pain or stiffness does not seem to be getting better after a few days or weeks and you are worried, or if you cannot control the pain with ordinary pain relievers, consult your doctor.

Shoulder pain

Shoulder pain is a symptom rather than a condition in itself. It is most often caused by shoulder disorders with 30% of adults being affected by these types of conditions at any one time. Shoulder pain can be a long-term problem, with up to half of people still having symptoms after 18 months.

Shoulder pain can be caused by a number of different shoulder disorders:
Frozen shoulder – a painful condition where joints become stiff, reducing normal movement in the joints or even preventing movement in the shoulder altogether
Rotator cuff disorders – the rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and help to keep it stable
Shoulder instability – where the shoulder is unstable and has an unusually large range of movement (hypermobility)
Acromioclavicular joint disorders – conditions that affect the joint at the very top of the shoulder
Frozen shoulder and rotator cuff disorder mostly affect middle-aged and older people, whilst shoulder instability and acromioclavicular joint disorders tend to affect younger people. This includes those who play sports that involve shoulder movements, such as bowling, tennis, or throwing, as well as such as rugby where your shoulder is exposed to a lot of pressure from contact with others or when you fall on your shoulder. If you are experiencing ongoing neck or shoulder pain, please consult your doctor.