How are neck and shoulder pain treated?

Samuel K. Cho, MD
Orthopedic Surgery

Most neck pain can be successfully treated without surgery. The management goals of treating neck pain are to achieve maximal reduction in pain intensity as rapidly as possible; to restore the individual’s ability to function in daily activities; to help the patient cope with residual pain; and to assess for side-effects of therapy.

Some of the non-operative treatments include aerobic exercise, physical therapy, various modalities (heat/cold treatments, massage therapy, and traction among others), neck brace, as well as the use of medications, such as muscle relaxants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Tylenol, or a short course of steroids. Epidural steroid injection or nerve root blocks may be recommended in select cases.

Surgery is the last resort in the treatment of neck pain. Surgery is recommended only when there is an identifiable source of pain that is both debilitating in nature and causing nerve irritation or damage.

Rick Olderman
Physical Therapy

Functionally these two areas are closely linked together. Their common denominator being the shoulder blade. Muscles connect the shoulder blade to the vertebrae of the neck and base of the skull. Muscles also connect the shoulder blade to the shoulder joint.

The shoulder system is a floating system on the trunk. Therefore precise movement is required to keep all the players happy. With most neck and shoulder patients, I begin by assessing and treating the shoulder blade and the factors that contribute to it's poor function.

Of course there are other issues such as the shape of the thoracic spine, the activities you are engaging in, head and neck movement patterns, and arm movement patterns.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.