Do You Suffer From Chronic Shoulder & Neck Pain?
Neck and shoulder pain is incredibly common and has a number of causes. You may suspect that your pain is caused by a pinched nerve if you meet some of the following conditions. Happily, if your pain is caused by a pinched nerve, there are solutions. Take our short quiz and find out if a pinched nerve is casuing your neck and shoulder pain.
1. Do I have chronic neck and shoulder pain?
I assume that neck and shoulder pain is what brought you here, so the answer is probably yes! Now think about possible causes. Are you overusing one side by carrying a heavy bag every day, gradually throwing your whole body out of balance? Did you have a specific one-time incident like a car accident or sports injury when the pain began? Do you have tight, overworked muscles with lots of knots (trigger points)? Tight muscles and trigger points can cause the sensations associated with a pinched nerve.
2. Does the pain spread into my arm, neck, chest, upper back or shoulders?
Let's take a minute to review the anatomy of the nervous system. Nerves are divided into two cateogries: motor neurons send messages from the brain to a muscle to coordinate movement, while sensory neurons send information from sensory organs like your eyes, nose, taste buds or skin back to the brain. The nervous system is organized into dermatomes, which look sort of like an elevation map of the body but tell us (for example) that a nerve that emerges from the spinal column in your neck, at the sixth cervical vertebrae (C6), supplies an area extending from the back of your neck, into the shoulders, and along the outside of both arms and into the thumbs. If you feel numbness, tingling, burning, or pain sensations along a very specific area, this could indicate that the supply pathway of the nerve has been compromised, and the specific area in which you are experiencing symtpoms can help you or a medical professional identify where the problem begins.
3. Do I have weakness or tingling in the arm or hand?
Tingling sensations similar to what we are referring to when we say a hand or foot has "fallen asleep" are called parasthesia. Parasthesia occurs when there is sustained pressure on a nerve, such as by sleeping in an unusual position, when trigger points push vertebrae out of alignment, or with certain chronic conditions. While most parasthesia will be temporary and can be addressed by elimiating the source of pressure on a nerve, it is always a good idea to get regular checkups from your doctor to rule out nerve damage caused by conditions like diabetes mellitus or shingles.
4. Was I in an accident or some other major trauma that would explain the pain?
If you answered YES, it may be a structural issue or scarring that is responsible for your chronic pain. Your best bet would be to see a chiropractor or physical therapist who can take an x-ray of your cervical spine and look for subluxations.
How Trigger Point Activation Can Cause Neck Pain & Discomfort
If you answered "YES" to two or more of the above questions, it's likely that your pain is the result of a pinched nerve. You might be surprised to hear that pinched nerves are often caused by trigger points or knots in muscles surrounding the neck. Knots that become "lodged" in muscles and other soft tissues can result in misalignment of the spine. When the spine is out of alignment we experience pain, tingling and numbness because the spine is bumping up against the nerves that travel in and out of each vertebrae.
Nerves that help you use your arms and hands go from your brain down your spine, and then exit the spine from the space between the vertebrae in your neck. When the cervical vertebrae are being pulled in an unusual direction from a muscle knot or trigger point, they often rub or touch the nerves that run down the arm or create far less space than they usually have to "travel" down the arm.
When the nerves make direct contact with the cervical vertebrae is when you experience intense, shooting pains. When the nerve is not being touched directly, yet is confined in close quarters, you may only experience an uncomfortable tingling.
Your personal situation and daily activity level will bear a direct correlation on your experience of pain - it may be constant, intermittent or alternate in frequency and severity.
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