Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Select An Article

Pain Management: Neck and Shoulder Pain

Font Size

Neck and shoulder pain can be classified in many different ways. Some people experience only neck pain or only shoulder pain, while others experience pain in both areas.

What Causes Neck Pain?

Causes of neck pain include:

  • Abnormalities in the bone or joints
  • Trauma
  • Poor posture
  • Degenerative diseases
  • Tumors
  • Muscle strain

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint with a large range of movement. Such a mobile joint tends to be more susceptible to injury. Shoulder pain can stem from one or more of the following causes:

  • Strains from overexertion
  • Tendonitis from overuse
  • Shoulder joint instability
  • Dislocation
  • Collar or upper arm bone fractures
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Pinched nerves (also called radiculopathy)

How Are Neck and Shoulder Pain Diagnosed?

  • X-rays: Plain X-rays can reveal narrowing of the space between two spinal bones, arthritis-like diseases, tumors, slipped discs, narrowing of the spinal canal, fractures and instability of the spinal column.
  • MRI: Magnetic resonance imaging is a noninvasive procedure that can reveal the detail of neural (nerve-related) elements, as well as problems with the tendons and ligaments.
  • Myelography/CT scanning: This is sometimes used as an alternative to MRI.
  • Electrodiagnostic studies: Electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity (NCV) are sometimes used to diagnose neck and shoulder pain, arm pain, numbness and tingling.

How Are Neck and Shoulder Pain Treated?

The treatment of soft tissue neck and shoulder pain often includes the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn). Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also be recommended. Depending on the source of pain, drugs like muscle relaxers and even antidepressants might be helpful. Pain also may be treated with a local application of moist heat or ice. Local corticosteroid injections are often helpful for arthritis of the shoulder. For both neck and shoulder pain movement, exercises may help. For cases in which nerve roots or the spinal cord are involved, surgical procedures may be necessary. Your doctor can tell you which is the best course of treatment for you.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 08, 2015
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
illustration of nerves in hand
lumbar spine
Woman opening window
Man holding handful of pills
Woman shopping for vegetables
Sore feet with high heel shoes
acupuncture needles in woman's back
man with a migraine