Shoulder Pain

Is your Shoulder Pain coming from your Neck?

Shoulder pain happens for many reasons, but one of the most common reasons happens when you have a misalignment in your neck.

Your cervical spine is the attachment site for many of the muscles that support your shoulder girdle. When we experience even minor head or neck injuries (e.g., tripping or slipping), the shockwave can affect the alignment, motion and stability of the joints in our neck. When that happens, it can cause the muscles in your neck to tighten, which can ultimately pull on your shoulder. As a result, we can experience various types of shoulder pain: soreness, pulling, and even sharp stabbing pains.


Where we feel the pain is not always where the problem is.

Shoulder pain is no exception to this rule. There are three major culprits in the neck that can be involves with shoulder pain:

  1. The C1 (atlas) vertebra.
  2. The C2 (axis) vertebra.
  3. The C5 vertebra.


C1 Misalignment & Shoulder Pain

The C1 vertebra in the top bone in your neck that supports the weight of your head. It also has a direct attachment for one of the most important muscles (called the levator scapula) that attaches on the tip of your shoulder blade.

To illustrate the importance of head-neck alignment on shoulder function, watch this video.

  1. Stick your head as far forward as you can.
  2. With your palms facing the floor raise your arms out to your side as far above your head as you can. You will likely find that you can only raise your arms a bit more than 90 degrees.
  3. Now, bring your head back to its normal position centered over your shoulders and see if you can raise your arms and higher above your head. You will probably find that it is much easier.

This simple exercise shows the importance of C1 alignment and how it affects your shoulder function, and also how a chronic misalignment in your upper neck can ultimately cause chronic shoulder pain, injury, or even frozen shoulder syndrome.


C2 Misalignment & Shoulder Pain

The C2 vertebra is the second bone in your neck that allows you to pivot your head. It is also the major anchor point for almost every muscles that attaches to your head, your shoulders and all the way down to your lower back.

If this vertebra ever locks of out of position, it has the tendency to pull your shoulder muscles on the opposite side. For example, a C2 misalignment on the left side of your neck has the tendency to pull on the muscles that attach to your right shoulder blade and alone the area between your shoulder blades on the right side. This can result is sharp stabbing pain between your shoulders that can also restrict your neck mobility.

If your neck has ever seized, causing sharp neck and shoulder pain, this is usually a sign of a C1-C2 misalignment.


C5 Misalignment & Shoulder Pain

Finally, the C5 vertebra can also affect your shoulder function because it directly supplies the nerves that control the muscles that allow your shoulder to move. Think of the nerves like wires that supply electricity. If your muscles do not receive proper electrical supply, they can begin to atrophy or get weak. Over time, this can lead to chronic shoulder pain, instability and injury. This can also lead to hand pain such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Of particular importance are the muscles of your rotator cuff (the major player being the supraspinatus). When we experience shoulder injuries, the supraspinatus is one of the most common muscles to be injured. When this happens, physical therapy, massage and acupuncture are all necessary parts of the rehabilitation process. However, when there is a problem with nerve transmission from your neck, these therapies may not work as well as they are supposed to. It’s like solving a combination lock with the digits in the wrong order.

Especially then if you are doing the right things (i.e., exercises) but you still experience shoulder pain, the missing link can well be a disruption of nerve supply coming from your neck.

Upper Cervical Care for Shoulder Pain

It takes a village to raise a child. Similarly, it takes a team to heal from shoulder pain and shoulder-related injuries. As we’ve just shown, the health of your neck is one of the key factors that goes toward a successful care strategy. In this regard, a speciality known as the Blair upper cervical technique is a natural and non-invasive approach to healthcare that can help.

The Blair technique is a special division of general chiropractic that does not use any bending, popping or twisting the neck. The approach takes a series of advanced three-dimensional images of your neck to identify the exact location, direction and degree of misalignment in your neck that can be contributing toward your shoulder pain. Then, by taking an individualized approach (because no two people are ever the same), we are able to offer a series of precise corrections that help restore normal motion and function in your neck. When this happens, it gives your body the best opportunity to do what it is designed to do: heal itself.

If you have been dealing with shoulder pain but not getting the results you expect, odds are you are doing the right thing but in the wrong order.

If you are looking for a chiropractor in Spokane, visit our home page more information. To schedule a new patient appointment with our Mead (north Spokane) or South Hill offices, complete a new patient request form here or call us direct at 509-315-8166.