Neck and shoulder pain on left side can be caused by many different things – like overuse of the neck muscles, arthritis, or even a pinched nerve. This article will provide you with some tips to help alleviate your pain.
So you’re in front of your computer when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it feels like someone sucker punched you from the inside. Your neck hurts, and when you turn to look at what’s going on, you notice that it’s stiff. You also feel pain radiating down your left shoulder blade where it meets the spine.
So you ask a few friends. One says it might be a pinched nerve in your neck, while another says it could be a muscle strain from working at the computer for so many hours in a row. Another friend even suggests that you see a doctor rule out any major health issues down the road.
But how do you know what’s going on? Should you see your doctor for this mysterious pain that comes and goes after hours of typing away at your computer? Or should you suck it up, take some Advil and try to get back to work as soon as possible?
Before we start, here’s something I want you to remember:
Neck pain can be a symptom of an underlying health problem. Always see your doctor if you feel like something serious is going on, such as numbness or weakness in the arms or legs or if your neck pain doesn’t disappear within a few days.
It could be a warning sign of problems that require medical attention, which you don’t want to ignore.
How common is neck pain?
According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), “more than 50% of Americans report experiencing neck pain lasting at least 24 hours in their lifetime and nearly 25% or more than 60 million Americans report experiencing persistent (chronic) neck and back pain at some point during their life.”
So now that we know that neck pain is a common problem let’s look at some of the possible causes and solutions for this condition.
Neck and shoulder pain on left side Causes & Solutions
Neck and shoulder pain on left side can have several causes. These may include:
- Strained or pinched nerves in the neck
- Arthritis and inflammation of the joints in the neck
- Stress and overuse injuries to muscles, tendons, and ligaments in your neck
- Pain caused by disc degeneration in the cervical vertebrae (neck bones) due to aging or wear and tear from such things as poor posture or sleeping disorders
- Cervical or neck injury from a car accident or sports problem causes the spine discs to herniate and press on nerves.
In addition, one study from 2015 suggests that “neurological factors may play a role in neurogenic disorder-mediated muscle pain.” In other words, this means that your nervous system (which controls your muscles, among other things) may play an important role in the pain you feel.
Therefore, if you suffer from neck pain due to muscle injuries or nerve problems, specific strategies can help reduce the pain. This includes seeing a chiropractor for treatment and learning proper body mechanics (like proper posture), stretching techniques, and how to prevent other injuries that may continue to cause pain.
However, suppose your neck pain is due to issues like arthritis or other types of degenerative changes in your bones (such as osteoarthritis – which affects more than 21 million people in the US alone). In that case, surgery may be the only option for reducing pain. So make sure always to see your doctor if the condition is getting worse and not better.
You may be surprised to hear that one of the most common causes of neck pain is actually due to improper posture (or how you hold or carry yourself). One study found that “poor posture places higher loads on the spine, which may lead to disc degeneration and/or exacerbation of pre-existing disc abnormalities.”
This is why one common cause for neck pain is due to sitting too long at the office. Studies show that white-collar workers spend an average of 55 hours per week sitting, which can lead to increased risks for health problems like obesity and heart disease, in addition to musculoskeletal pain.
As someone who works at a desk, I can understand how easy it can be to get caught up in projects and forget about the time – let alone your body’s warning signs that something isn’t right. However, one solution for this is taking breaks throughout the day (here are some other suggestions).
Another major cause of neck pain is due to injuries related to sports. I can relate to this as an athlete who has suffered from recurring neck problems throughout my career.
However, there are ways to prevent these injuries or reduce their severity. Here are some tips you may find helpful:
See a chiropractor if you have a pre-existing neck injury or have one from a sports accident.
If you’re an athlete, make sure to take care of your body by getting regular chiropractic checkups and being aware of the warning signs that something might be wrong. The T-Spine Institute has a great list of symptoms to keep an eye out for here.
Get a professional opinion before participating in contact sports. As The Spine Center suggests, “Knowing the risks will help you make decisions about your sport.”
Most importantly, use proper form, follow the rules, and don’t try to do anything beyond your ability – especially if it doesn’t feel right. Remember, you want to protect your neck for a lifetime, not just while you’re an athlete.
Finally, it’s also important to note that smoking is one of the worst things you can do if you suffer from neck pain since tobacco causes decreased blood flow to the spinal cord and nerve roots. So stop smoking today!
One study found that “37% of middle-aged women and 33% of middle-aged men reported neck pain of which 61% of women and 55% of men attributed neck pain to osteoarthritis.” That means that more than 7 million people suffer from neck pain in the US alone due to this disease.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help reduce or potentially avoid developing neck pain due to osteoarthritis. Here are some suggestions according to the research:
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 3–4 times per week, may help maintain a good range of motion and muscle strength.
- Get regular chiropractic adjustments if you have a pre-existing condition.
- See a physical therapist if you have trouble moving your neck.
- Don’t smoke! Studies show that smoking has been found to reduce blood flow to the spinal cord, worsening neck pain.
If you’re experiencing neck and shoulder pain on the left side, it’s important to schedule a visit with your doctor.
Your physician can help determine if there is an underlying medical condition that’s causing this discomfort.
The sooner we catch these conditions early on, the better off we’ll manage them or prevent any further complications from occurring.