Science tells us that moderate neck and shoulder pain will most often resolve itself within two to three weeks; especially if over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory products, including NSAIDs, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxin are used.
Using a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) device, and physical therapy may also help to ease pain, and correct possible recurrence, according to studies. [Source: Blanpied PR, Gross AR, Elliott JM, et al. Neck pain: revision 2017. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2017;47(7):A1-A83. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2017.0302.]
However, research from the Mayo Clinic also tells us that for shoulder pain, physical therapy and NSAIDs alone could take as long as 12 weeks for significant relief of symptoms.
And it’s important to know that neck pain could mask a shoulder problem, and vice versa. “People may come in with shoulder pain when they really have a neck problem,” says Eric Ricchetti, MD, a shoulder specialist in Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Conversely, neck pain can mask a shoulder problem.
Red flags for serious causes of neck pain
When all three of these conditions are met, three general red flags for neck pain, it’s probably a good idea to see a physician right away:
- it’s been bothering you for more than about 6 weeks
- it’s severe and/or not improving, or actually getting worse
- there is at least one other “red flag”, including:
- Mysterious chills or fevers
- When light tapping on the spine is painful
- Severe headaches or inability to bend the head forward.
- Altered mental state
- Inexplicable dizziness or nausea
Generally speaking, a sharp stabbing pain in the shoulder or neck usually means that the cause of the pain is a temporary issue, possibly muscular strains. (Unless of course, the stabbing pain is accompanied by a knife sticking our of your shoulder or neck, in which case, you’ve probably been stabbed!)
Otherwise, sharp, shooting pains are mostly neurological false alarms linked to minor musculoskeletal troubles: causing your brain to briefly “over-react” to real-but-trivial issues in and around the spine.
Neck Stiffness and Shoulder Pain Relief
Watch this video, in which the “Knee Pain Guru”, Bill Parravano, offers some insight and helpful tips for managing neck and shoulder pain.
You’ll learn exercises for neck and shoulder pain, in which we will cover 4 unique exercises, concentrating on the 4 primary directions for the neck: up/down, tilting L/R, Rotation L/R and on the diagonals.
We will be incorporating special breathing techniques to facilitate and speed up the release of tension in the areas of the neck and shoulders.
Hi, I am not an athlete, active, 72 years young, with shoulder stiffness and pain and limited range of motion of arms after years of working long hours on the computer — without stretching…
Being a mindfulness and meditation teacher and educator, I love how and that you connect breath with the exercises and would love to see some shoulder exercises to release and lengthen muscles?
We addressed your question in the latest “Ask Dr. Beck” on Wednesday July 21, 2021
Here’s the link to check it out: