Shoulder and Neck Pain Health (cont.)

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Shoulder and Neck Pain Symptoms and Signs

  • Pain: All pain seems sharp, but pain can also be described as dull, burning, crampy, shocklike, or stabbing. Pain can lead to a stiff neck or shoulder and loss of range of motion. Headache may result. The character of each symptom is important to your doctor because the particular features can be clues to the cause of your pain.
  • Weakness: Weakness can be due to severe pain from muscle or bone movement. The nerves that supply the muscles, however, also could be injured. It is important to distinguish true weakness (muscle or nerve damage) from inability or reluctance to move because of pain or inflammation.
  • Numbness: If the nerves are pinched, bruised, or cut, you may not be able to feel things normally. This may cause a burning or tingling sensation, a loss of sensation, or an altered sensation similar to having your arm "fall asleep."
  • Coolness: A cool arm or hand suggests that the arteries, veins, or both have been injured or blocked. This may mean that not enough blood is getting into the arm.
  • Color changes: A blue or white tinge to the skin of your arm or shoulder is another sign that the arteries or veins could have been injured. Redness can indicate infection or inflammation. Rashes may be noted as well. Bruising may be evident.
  • Swelling: This may be generalized to the whole arm or may be localized over the involved structures (a fracture area or an inflamed bursa, for example). Muscle spasms or tightness may simulate actual swelling. Dislocation or deformity may cause a swollen appearance or, paradoxically, a sunken area.
  • Deformity: A deformity may be present if you have a fracture or a dislocation. Certain ligament tears can cause an abnormal positioning of the bony structures.

When to Seek Medical Care

If pain or other symptoms start to worsen, call your doctor or immediately go to a hospital emergency department.

  • For milder cases, basic home-care measures (see below) are adequate until your doctor can see you.
  • In many cases, simple injuries, such as strains and bruises, heal themselves and do not require an office visit.
  • For persisting pain in the shoulder or neck, an evaluation by a health-care professional is appropriate.
  • If you have severe or worsening pain, weakness, numbness, coolness, deformity, or color changes, you should go to a hospital emergency department immediately.
  • If you develop a high fever (temperature < 102.5 F), severe headache, chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, or sweatiness, or if you develop the sudden onset of numbness or weakness, particularly on one side of the body, call 911 for emergency services to go to the nearest emergency department by ambulance.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/9/2014

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