Shoulder and neck pain on the right side can indicate conditions involving the organs in the right side of your chest and abdomen. If you have right-sided neck and shoulder pain, it must be investigated. This post delves into the possible symptoms, causes, and treatments for this condition.
Why You Have Neck And Shoulder Pain On Your Right Side
There are several reasons for developing neck and shoulder pain on the right side. Some of them are listed below:
- Degeneration of Wear and Tear: As we age, the discs and joints in the neck can wear down, leading to pain and stiffness.
- Wrong Sleeping Position: Sleeping in the wrong position, such as sleeping on the stomach or with a pillow that is too high or too low, can also cause neck and shoulder pain on the right side.
Sleeping on the stomach can cause strain on the neck and shoulder muscles, as the head and neck are turned to the side for an extended period. Sleeping with a pillow that is too high or too low can also cause strain on the neck and shoulder muscles by altering the spine’s alignment.
- Working Overhead: House chores that require you to work overhead, like gutter cleanings, and certain occupations, such as construction or manual labor, can involve repetitive or strenuous movements that increase the risk of neck and shoulder pain.
- Poor Ergonomics at Work: Poor postures, such as hunching over a desk or computer, can strain the muscles in the neck and shoulders, increasing the risk of pain and discomfort. Repeating the same motion repeatedly, such as typing or using a mouse, can lead to muscle strain and tension in the neck and shoulders.
- Carrying Heavy Loads Improperly: Carrying a heavy load, especially if done repeatedly or for an extended period, can strain the neck and shoulder muscles significantly. This can cause muscle tension and trigger points, leading to pain and discomfort.
Additionally, carrying a heavy load on one side of the body can cause an imbalance, leading to uneven muscle development and further strain on the neck and shoulder muscles.
- Stress and Anxiety: Emotional and physical stress can cause muscle tension and contribute to neck and shoulder pain.
How Right Shoulder And Neck Pain Feels Like
Shoulder and neck pain on the right side can be accompanied by a variety of symptoms, depending on the underlying cause.
Here are some common signs that may occur along with shoulder and neck pain on the right side:
- Stiffness: Stiffness in the neck and shoulder region may occur, making it difficult to move the head and shoulder.
- Headache: Headache is a common symptom that may accompany shoulder and neck pain on the right side.
- Numbness or Tingling: Numbness or tingling may occur in the shoulder, arm, or hand on the affected side.
- Weakness: Shoulder, arm, or hand weakness may occur due to nerve compression or muscle strain.
- Limited Range of Motion: Limited range of motion in the neck and shoulder may occur, making it difficult to perform certain activities.
- Swelling or Redness: Swelling or redness in the neck and shoulder region may occur due to inflammation.
- Difficulty Sleeping: Pain and discomfort in the neck and shoulder region may make sleeping difficult.
- Fatigue: Chronic shoulder and neck pain can cause fatigue and decreased energy levels.
Possible Medical Conditions Causing Pain In The Right Shoulder And Neck
Several medical conditions can cause pain in the right shoulder and neck. Here are some possible conditions and the additional symptoms that may accompany them:
Whiplash is an injury when the neck is forcefully jerked back and forth. This can cause pain on one side of the neck and shoulder.
This degenerative condition affects the neck and can cause pain and stiffness. Additional symptoms may include numbness or tingling in the arms, weakness in the arms or legs, and difficulty walking.
This condition occurs when the cartilage in the joints wears down, leading to pain and stiffness. Additional symptoms may include a clicking or grinding sensation in the joint, swelling, and limited range of motion.
Stable angina can cause pain in the right shoulder and neck due to a process known as referred pain. When the heart does not receive enough blood flow, it can send signals to the spinal cord, causing pain signals to other parts of the body, including the neck and shoulder on the right side.
This type of pain is known as referred pain, as it is felt elsewhere than where the problem occurs. The pain from stable angina in the shoulder and neck on the right side may feel like a dull ache or pressure and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, or sweating.
Stroke or Cervical Artery Dissection
A stroke or cervical artery dissection can cause shoulder and neck pain on the right side due to disrupting blood flow to the brain and neck.
In some cases, a stroke can also cause pain in the neck and shoulder on the right side, accompanied by other symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, and headache.
Cervical artery dissection is when the lining of the artery in the neck tears, leading to a blood clot or arterial narrowing. This can cause pain in the neck and shoulder on the right side.
A broken collarbone, also known as a clavicle fracture, can cause shoulder and neck pain on the right side due to the location of the fracture and the muscles and ligaments that are involved.
When the collarbone is broken, the two ends of the bone may shift out of alignment, causing pain and discomfort in the shoulder and neck on the right side. The muscles and ligaments may be stretched or strained, causing pain and discomfort in the right side of the shoulder and neck.
Other symptoms of a broken collarbone may include swelling, tenderness, and bruising around the shoulder and neck on the right side. In severe cases, the fractured bone may protrude through the skin.
Broken Shoulder Blade
The shoulder blade is attached to several vital muscles and ligaments, including the trapezius muscle, which runs from the base of the skull to the shoulder blade, and the rhomboid muscles, which connect the shoulder blade to the spine.
When the shoulder blade is broken, these muscles and ligaments may be stretched or strained, causing pain and discomfort in the shoulder and neck on the right side.
Shoulder Tendinitis or Bursitis
Shoulder tendinitis or bursitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the shoulder joint’s tendons or bursae. Inflammation can cause pain and discomfort in the shoulder joint, radiating to the neck, upper back, and down the arm.
A shoulder separation, also known as acromioclavicular (AC) joint separation, is a common injury that occurs when the ligaments that connect the collarbone (clavicle) to the shoulder blade (scapula) are torn.
The injury can cause shoulder pain, swelling, and limited range of motion. When the AC joint is separated, the joint no longer supports the weight of the arm, and it can cause a compensatory change in posture, leading to tension and pain in the neck muscles on the same side as the injury. This is because the muscles in the neck have to work harder to support the weight of the arm, which can lead to strain and pain.
In addition, the nerves that supply the shoulder and neck region may become compressed or irritated due to the injury, causing referred pain and discomfort in the neck and shoulder on the affected side.
Therefore, shoulder separation can cause right-sided neck pain and shoulder pain due to compensatory changes in posture, as well as nerve compression or irritation in the affected area.
Shoulder and Neck Referred Pain
Shoulder and neck referred pain is a type of pain that is felt in the shoulder and neck area but originates from a different part of the body. Referred pain occurs when pain signals from one part of the body are transmitted along nerves and felt in another area served by the same nerve pathway.
For example, a problem in the diaphragm muscle, located below the lungs, may cause pain that is felt in the shoulder and neck region. This is because the phrenic nerve, which supplies the diaphragm muscle, also has branches that supply the shoulder and neck area. Similarly, a problem with the gallbladder or liver can cause referred pain in the right shoulder and neck.
Gallstones or Inflamed Gallbladder
Gallstones or an inflamed gallbladder can cause right-sided neck and shoulder pain through referred pain. The gallbladder is located in the upper right abdomen, near the liver.
When there is a problem with the gallbladder, such as gallstones or inflammation, it can irritate the nearby nerves and cause pain that is felt in other parts of the body, including the right side of the neck and shoulder.
Other symptoms of gallbladder problems may include nausea, vomiting, fever, and yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).
This referred pain is due to the shared nerve pathways between the gallbladder and the neck and shoulder region. These nerves connect the organs in the abdomen to the spinal cord, and when they are irritated or inflamed, they can send pain signals to other areas of the body.
Cancer can cause shoulder and right-sided neck pain. A cancerous tumor growing in the shoulder or neck region on the right side can cause pain radiating to the shoulder and neck. This can be due to the tumor’s pressure on surrounding tissues, nerves, and muscles.
If the cancer has spread to the bones in the shoulder and neck region on the right side, it can cause pain in these areas. Cancer that has metastasized to the bones can weaken them, making them more susceptible to fractures and breaks, which can also cause pain.
Other symptoms may include fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and loss of appetite.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Are you plagued by shoulder pain that has now transitioned from intermittent to constant and keeps you up at night? Are daily shoulder movements, such as dressing and reaching for objects in the kitchen cabinets, painful? Is your range of motion decreasing as your pain is increasing? You may have a full- or partial-thickness rotator cuff tear. Has conservative therapy in the form of heat, ice, stretching, rest, and acupuncture failed to provide significant relief? Has an MRI demonstrated a full-thickness or partial-thickness tear of the rotator cuff? What to do? If left untreated, full-thickness and 26% of partial-thickness tears will progress.
Read More About Rotator Cuff Tear
Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a painful loss of shoulder movement and range in motion. The incidence of frozen shoulder is 3-5% in the general population and up to 20% in those with diabetes. The peak incidence is between 40-60 years of age. The exact mechanism is poorly understood. In general, the capsule becomes inflamed, thickened, and contracted with pain and significant restriction in range of motion. causes are poorly understood but risk factors include trauma, prolonged immobility, systematic diseases such as diabetes, stroke, connective tissue disease, and heart disease. Other causes include post-surgery, chronic inflammation causing stimulation of myofibroblasts
Read More About Frozen Shoulder
Common Cervical Radiculopathy symptoms include neck pain, arm pain, shoulder pain radiating down arm to fingers, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Cervical Radiculopathy is a clinical condition in which a nerve or nerves in your neck become irritated or compressed. It is also known as ” a pinched nerve,” The causes are discussed below. It can affect individuals of any age with peak prominence between ages 40-50 years of age. Cervical Radiculopathy is due to spinal nerve inflammation, irritation, or compression. The most common causes of Cervical Radiculopathy are: Disc Injury – The disc is an important shock absorber. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to injury.
Read More About Cervical Radiculopathy
Herniated Thoracic Disc
A herniated thoracic disc is especially difficult because there are not as many treatments available as there are for disc herniations in other areas of the spine. To understand Thoracic Disc Herniations, though, we first need to cover thoracic spine anatomy and function. With disc herniation, the annulus fibrosus get small tears throughout the annulus. An annulus is a bunch of concentric fibers, so, as the fibers get damaged and cut, the pressure that is built up within the nucleus pushes the now weakened annulus outward, creating a bulge or herniation. The disc begins to weaken via mild degeneration/tearing of the annular fibers…
Read More About Herniated Thoracic Disc
How Come Pain Often Occurs On Just One Side Of The Neck And Shoulder?
A variety of factors can cause pain that occurs on just one side of the neck and shoulder. Here are some possible explanations:
- Muscle Strain: Overuse or injury to the muscles on one side of the neck and shoulder can cause pain only on that side.
- Poor Posture: Poor posture, such as slouching or tilting the head to one side, can cause muscle tension and pain on one side of the neck and shoulder.
- Pinched Nerve: A pinched nerve in the neck can cause pain to radiate down one arm and shoulder while the other side may be unaffected.
- Osteoarthritis: This condition can cause pain on one side of the neck and shoulder due to the wear and tear of the joints.
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: Thoracic outlet syndrome is when the nerves and blood vessels that pass through the thoracic outlet (the area between the neck and shoulder) are compressed. This can cause pain on one side of the neck and shoulder and numbness or tingling in the arm.
Why Does My Neck And Shoulder Pain Come With a Headache?
Neck and shoulder pain can be accompanied by headaches for several reasons. Here are some possible explanations:
- Tension Headaches: Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and are often associated with neck and shoulder pain. These headaches are caused by muscle tension or spasms in the neck, shoulder, and scalp muscles. The pain is often described as a dull ache or pressure on both sides of the head.
- Cervicogenic Headaches: Cervicogenic headaches are caused by problems in the cervical spine (neck). These headaches can be triggered by neck movement or specific postures and are often accompanied by neck and shoulder pain. The upper cervical facet joints can also refer pain to the back of the head.
- Migraines: Migraines are headaches often characterized by a throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head. Various factors, including stress, certain foods, and changes in sleep patterns, can trigger migraines. Neck and shoulder pain can also be a symptom of a migraine.
- Posture: Poor posture can cause muscle tension and strain in the neck and shoulders, leading to headaches. For example, long periods of hunching over a computer or phone can cause neck and shoulder pain, leading to headaches.
- Nerve Compression: Nerve compression or irritation in the neck and shoulder region can cause pain and headaches. This can occur due to a herniated disc or a pinched nerve. Additionally, one of the peripheral occipital nerves in the neck can become compressed or irritated leading to one or both sided headache pain.
When To See A Doctor
You should see a doctor for shoulder and neck pain on the right side if:
- The pain is severe and doesn’t improve with rest or over-the-counter pain medications.
- The pain is accompanied by numbness or weakness in the arm, hand, or fingers.
- The pain is accompanied by fever or other signs of infection.
- The pain is accompanied by difficulty breathing or chest pain.
- An injury or trauma, such as a fall or car accident, caused the pain.
- The pain lasts for more than a few days or keeps recurring.
- The pain is affecting your ability to perform daily activities or sleep.
Examination And Diagnosis
When a patient presents with shoulder and neck pain on the right side, a doctor will typically perform a physical examination and ask questions about the patient’s medical history and symptoms. Here are some common steps a doctor may take to examine and diagnose shoulder and neck pain on the right side:
- Medical History: The doctor will ask about the patient’s medical history, including any previous injuries or medical conditions that could be contributing to their pain.
- Physical Examination: The doctor will perform a physical examination, which may involve palpation of the affected area to check for areas of tenderness, swelling, or deformity. They may also assess the range of motion of the shoulder and neck and test for any neurological symptoms such as numbness or weakness. Some specialized doctors can also use ultrasound to look at some of the soft tissues of the shoulder to see if they are injured.
- Imaging Tests: Depending on the results of the physical examination, the doctor may order imaging tests such as X-rays, MRI, or CT scans to evaluate the affected area further and check for any structural abnormalities or damage.
- Blood Tests: Sometimes, the doctor may order blood tests to check for signs of inflammation or infection, which can contribute to pain and discomfort.
- ECG: Shoulder and neck pain can sometimes be a symptom of a heart-related condition, such as angina or a heart attack. In these cases, an ECG may be ordered to help diagnose the underlying condition and assess the heart’s health.
An ECG can detect abnormalities in the heart’s electrical activity, such as an irregular heartbeat or damage to the heart muscle.
- Electrodiagnostic Studies: Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) studies can help diagnose shoulder and right-side neck pain, particularly if the pain is suspected to be related to nerve damage or dysfunction.
EMG measures the electrical activity of muscles, while NCV measures the speed and strength of electrical signals as they travel along nerves. These tests can help determine if any damage or dysfunction in the nerves or muscles could contribute to the patient’s pain.
- Referral to a Specialist: If the doctor suspects that the patient’s condition requires more specialized care, they may refer the patient to a specialist, such as a Physical Medicine and rehabilitation doctor (PMR or Physiatrist), an orthopedic surgeon, or neurologist, for further evaluation and treatment. A PMR, Pain management or Sports medicine doctor will be the best first line specialist for non surgical orthopedic care management. An orthopedic or spine surgeon would be best for major orthopedic problems such as a fracture, complete tendon rupture, spinal cord injury, or severe nerve compression, etc. A neurologist would be best if there is a suspected underlying brain, spinal cord, or diffuse nerve issues contributing to symptoms.
At-Home Treatments For Neck And Shoulder Pain
At-home treatments for neck and shoulder pain include the following:
- Rest: Resting the affected area can encourage healing.
- Activity Modification: Avoiding activities aggravating the pain can help promote healing and prevent any worsening.
- Ice Compress: Applying a cold compress to the affected area can help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Heat Application: A heating pad can increase circulation and hasten the healing of any affected injury.
- OTC Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help alleviate mild to moderate pain.
Exercises To Ease Neck And Shoulder Pain
Several stretches can help to relieve neck and shoulder pain. It is essential to perform these stretches gently and slowly, avoiding sudden movements or jerks that could cause further injury or strain.
Additionally, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new stretching or exercise routine, particularly if you are experiencing significant pain or discomfort.
Slowly roll your head in a circular motion, starting with your chin towards your chest and then rolling to one side, then to the back, and then to the other. Repeat several times in each direction.
Roll your shoulders forward and up towards your ears, then back and down in a circular motion. Reverse the motion and repeat several times.
Levator Scapula Stretch
Sit or stand while keeping your shoulders relaxed and your chin tucked in slightly. Bring your right ear towards your right shoulder as if you were trying to touch your ear to your shoulder.
You should experience a stretch along the left side of your neck. If you want to deepen the extension, you can use your right hand to pull your head down towards your shoulder gently.
Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds. Release and do the same for the other side. You can perform the stretch 2-3 times on each side or as needed to relieve tension and pain.
It is important to note that surgery is usually not the first treatment option for shoulder and neck pain. Conservative treatments such as physical therapy, medication, and injection therapies may be recommended first. The specific surgical options for these conditions may vary, depending on the underlying cause and severity of the pain.
Here are some possible surgical options:
This less invasive surgery involves making small incisions in the shoulder and using a tiny camera and specialized instruments to repair or remove damaged tissue, such as a torn rotator cuff, labrum, or bursa.
In some cases, open surgery may be necessary to repair a severely damaged or torn rotator cuff or replace a damaged joint with an artificial one.
Posterior Cervical Laminectomy And Fusion
This surgery is similar to ACDF but involves accessing the cervical spine from the back of the neck. It may be used for patients with multiple levels of spinal stenosis or other conditions requiring spinal cord decompression.
Total Shoulder Replacement
In cases of severe shoulder arthritis, total shoulder replacement surgery may be recommended. This involves removing the damaged parts of the shoulder joint and replacing them with an artificial joint.
ACDF stands for “anterior cervical discectomy and fusion.” It is a surgical procedure performed on the neck to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots caused by a damaged or degenerated disc. During the procedure, the surgeon removes the damaged disc and replaces it with a bone graft or synthetic implant. Metal plates and screws may be used to hold the vertebrae together during the fusion process. ACDF surgery can help relieve symptoms such as neck pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the arms or hands caused by nerve compression in the neck. It is a commonly performed procedure…
Read More About ACDF Surgery
Non-Invasive Medical Treatment Options
The treatment plan varies for each condition depending on your diagnosis. It may involve doing some of the following:
- Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can develop a personalized exercise program to help improve posture, alignment, the range of motion, strength, flexibility, and correct imbalnaces in the affected shoulder and neck muscles. This can be done via the Graston technique or Intramuscular Stimulation.
- Pain Medication: Prescription medications, such as muscle relaxants or nerve pain medications, may be necessary for more severe pain.
- Corticosteroid Injections: A doctor can inject a corticosteroid medication directly into the affected joint, tendons sheath, bursa or around a nerve to help reduce inflammation and pain. These medications can have substantial risks to the tissue healing so they should only be used judiciously and sparingly.
- Acupuncture: This alternative therapy involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to help alleviate pain and improve overall well-being.
- Chiropractic Care: A chiropractor can manually adjust the spine and other joints to help reduce pain and improve mobility.
- Massage: Massage can be beneficial in relieving shoulder and neck pain on the right side. The shoulder and neck are areas where tension and stress can build, leading to discomfort and pain. Massage can help to release this tension by relaxing the muscles, increasing circulation, and reducing inflammation.
The therapist will typically apply pressure to specific points in your neck and shoulder muscles to release knots and tightness. They may also use various techniques such as stretching, kneading, and tapping to relax the muscles further and increase blood flow to the area.
Regenerative Treatments for Neck and Shoulder Pain
There are many regenerative options to treat one or both sided shoulder and neck pain. PRP and bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells are some of the most effective, nonsurgical treatment options for shoulder and neck arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis/tendinopathy, cervical disk tears, labral tears, partial thickness tears in the rotator cuff, and injured or lax shoulder and neck ligaments.
PRP and a specialized PRP called platelet lysate can be used to treat irritated cervical nerves and peripheral neck and shoulder nerves. Using PRP and Bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells allows patients to avoid the side effects of steroid injections and pain management procedures that burn the nerves in the neck. It also enables patients to avoid shoulder surgery.
The PRP and bone marrow concentrate containing stem cell injections are performed under ultrasound and or Flouroscopic (Xray) guidance to ensure accurate placement of the platelets and cells. This will ensure the best clinical outcome. The injections cannot be performed by your PCP or orthopedic surgeon as they require a specialized skill set.
Moreover, the preparation and processing of stem cells and PRP requires a specialized laboratory that is not available at a typical doctor’s office.
We track all our patients in a registry and publish outcome results. Here is our cervical and shoulder registry outcome data.
We also publish papers in peer reviewed journals. Our randomized controlled study examined the use of bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells for rotator cuff tears and demonstrated significant clinical and radiographic improvement in comparison to patients who underwent exercise therapy (9).
We also published a prospective registry data study examining the use of bone marrow concentrate for shoulder arthritis and rotator cuff tears show significant improvements in patients pain and function (JPR-80872—-a-prospective-study-of-the-safety-and-efficacy-of-a-speci (nih.gov)).
We have published on the use of prolotherapy and PRP treating cervical spine pain (Cureus | Regenerative Injection Treatments Utilizing Platelet Products and Prolotherapy for Cervical Spine Pain: A Functional Spinal Unit Approach | Article).
Ease Yourself From Right Shoulder And Neck Pain – The Centeno Schultz (CSC) Way
At the Centeno-Schultz Clinic, we are experts in the evaluation and treatment of neck and shoulder injuries. CSC treats right shoulder and neck pain safely and efficiently using conservative treatment, non-surgical interventions, and regenerative medicine.
Every new patient examination includes a thorough history, examination and ultrasound examination of the shoulder. These examinations can identify instability and small defects in the tendons and ligaments not often found on MRI or CT.
We then can give you a full list of conservative and regenerative treatment options such as PRP and bone marrow concentrate containing stem cells to allow your body to heal without drugs and surgeries.
Don’t let your right shoulder and neck pain disrupt your daily life. Consult with us right away!