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National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS)

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Shoulder Pain & Neck Pain

Signs &




to Ask

Self-Care /


Image of shoulder and neck pain.

•  The pain can be mild to severe. It can be felt in one spot, in a large area, or travel to another area. Movement can cause the pain or make it worse.

•  Stiffness and/or swelling may occur.

•  Overuse and wear and tear on neck and shoulder muscles and joints.

•  Strains. Broken or dislocated shoulder.

•  Poor posture. Awkward sleeping positions. Sleeping on a soft mattress.

•  Pinched nerve. Pain from a pinched nerve usually runs down one side of the arm.

•  Frozen shoulder. This can result from lack of use due to pain from an injury. At first, pain occurs with movement. Over time, the pain gets better, but stiffness remains.

•  Torn rotator cuff. This is a tear in a ligament that holds the shoulder in place. Symptoms are pain at the top and outer sides of the shoulders, especially when you raise or extend your arm. You may also feel or hear a click when the shoulder is moved.

•  Tendinitis. This is swelling of a tendon (tissue that connects a muscle to bone). Left untreated, tendinitis can turn into “frozen shoulder.” “Wry” neck is a similar problem.

•  Bursitis. This is swelling of the sac (bursa) that surrounds the shoulder joint. Bursitis can be caused by injury, infection, overuse, arthritis, or gout.

•  A whiplash injury.

•  Osteoarthritis.

•  Infections that cause swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

Image of women in front of computer holding neck.
Image of women with neck and shoulder pain.

Self-care can treat less serious causes of shoulder pain and/or neck pain.

Treatment for shoulder pain and/or neck pain depends on the cause. Emergency medical care is needed for:

•  A serious injury.

•  A broken bone.

•  A heart attack.

•  Meningitis. This is an infection of the membranes that surround the brain.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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