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Shoulder Pain Caused by the Spine

Shoulder Pain Caused by the Spine

Shoulder pain can be caused by a lot of different issues and conditions. However, many patients don’t realize that your shoulder pain may be caused by an issue in your spine. In this article, we are going to discuss shoulder pain conditions and injuries that stem from issues in the spinal column.

Potential Causes of Shoulder Pain

There are several different factors that can contribute to the development of shoulder pain. Here are a few of the most common conditions and injuries that lead to shoulder pain:

  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Tendonitis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Bursitis
  • Dislocations or fractures
  • Spine conditions (slipped discs, spinal stenosis, ankylosing spondylitis, etc.)

Most of these make sense, but many people are confused by the last item on the list. How can shoulder pain be caused by an issue in the spine? To understand the answer, we need to have a basic comprehension of how the central and peripheral nervous systems work.

The Central & Peripheral Nervous Systems

The central nervous system is composed of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. These nerves send and receive signals from the peripheral nervous system (which is composed of the nerves in other areas of the body, like the hands). When you burn your hand on a hot stove, the nerves in your hand transmit that signal through the nerves in your spine and up to your brain. Your brain interprets the burn as pain and sends a signal back to your hand so you feel pain. This all happens within a fraction of a second.

All of these nerves are connected in the spine and brain. Sometimes these spinal nerves are negatively impacted. They can be pinched by a bulging disc or collapsed vertebra, for example. When that happens, the signals sent to and from the brain get confused. This is how an issue in your spine can lead to pain in your shoulder. If the exact nerves are affected, you may feel shoulder pain.

Treatment Options

Before embarking on a treatment course, be sure to get an accurate diagnosis from a qualified physician. To solidify a diagnosis of the cause of your shoulder pain, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination, and may order additional diagnostic testing like x-rays, MRIs, or diagnostic injections.

Once a diagnosis has been reached, your physician will walk you through your treatment options, which may include over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, injection therapy, physical therapy, or surgery. If there is a nerve issue at the root of the problem, a minimally invasive keyhole spinal surgery may be necessary.