Neck and Shoulder Pain – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Exercises

Last Updated on September 10th, 2021

Have you noticed your neck and shoulder pain a lot more often while working from home or while doing continuous sitting Desk job?

Most of you would agree with this fact, that no or little exercises or physical movement leads to more neck and shoulder pain.

Working from home has many benefits though. But unfortunately Sitting for longer periods in wrong positions has increased the incidence of Shoulder and neck pain to a great extent.

Neck pain and shoulder pain have various causes that generally may not be due to underlying diseases but due to wrong Postures more often. Other examples of neck and shoulder pain include sleeping in the wrong posture, continuously sitting in the wrong position lead to strain of muscles of neck and shoulder, Stress or wearing heavy necklaces, and carrying heavy bags. 

treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain
treatment for neck pain and shoulder pain


Shoulder and Neck Pain

Shoulder and Neck pain may be due to conditions that are not dangerous example over stress and strain to muscles due to incorrect postures, long working hours on laptop, incorrect sleep postures. On contrary sometimes, neck and shoulder pain may be due to some dangerous and life-threatening conditions like Major trauma due to an accident, Heart Attack.

For some Neck pain is more painful and unbearable while for some shoulder pain is more intense and painful and limits the basic activities of daily routine. The doctor prescribes depending upon the cause of the pain the required treatment and exercise. With appropriate treatment and exercise, pain improves and you can get back to your normal routine.


remedies for neck pain and shoulder pain
remedies for neck pain and shoulder pain

Symptoms of Neck Pain

It is the most common complaint of people. The common symptoms include –

  1. Pain that may be persistent or severe that may worsen when driving, working on a laptop, studying.
  2. Muscle sprain and spasm
  3. Inability to move the head, limited activity of the head, and neck.
  4. Continuous Headache
  5. Accompanied with numbness or tingling sensation.


Symptoms of Shoulder Pain

It is also a common complaint of people sometimes accompanied by shoulder pain. The symptoms include –

  1. Pain in the shoulder joint and the arms.
  2. Pain while moving the shoulder making it difficult to perform the daily activities.
  3. Tingling sensation like pins and needles.


Causes of Neck and Shoulder Pain

Pain takes it granted the neck and shoulder pain until it becomes severe or starts hampering even the basic daily routine activities. Common causes are listed as follows –


Improper Sleep Posture

Sleeping in the wrong posture often initiates pain in the neck that creates difficulty in movement. When the muscles around the neck are strained due to the wrong posture they make it hard to move or rotate the head. This occurs due to the stiffness of the muscles of the neck due to continuous strain to the neck muscles. With gentle exercise, stretching and rest, the muscles can relax. And to prevent the injury it’s better to sleep on back and stomach posture with a good supportive pillow.

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sleep well stay well
sleep well stay well

Over work

Take a break from overactivity, over-cleaning you are doing for a long period of time. It creates overstrain to the muscles of the neck or shoulders since you are not used to over physical activity or you are doing your job in the wrong posture. Most of the time you work hunched over for a long period of time instead of sitting upright. It put more load on neck muscles. The key is to walk between breaks, stretch a little bit between work and good would be to put the laptop or computer monitors at a higher elevation.


Carrying Heavy Bags on Shoulders

You should always try to minimize the bag full of stuff on your shoulder. Constantly straining the should muscles lead to wear and tear and pain in the shoulders. If you carry a heavy bag constantly on one side of the shoulder it leads to straining of the muscles of that particular shoulder followed by intense pain and tingling sensation.


Fracture or Injuries

Accidents, trauma, fall from a height, sports injury, Vehicle accident lead to frozen shoulders with a stiffness of muscles of neck and shoulder and sometimes Fractures too. This may lead to stiffness of muscles, tendons, or ligaments and thus pain in the neck or shoulders.


Muscle Spasm

Spasm often leads to pain in the neck or shoulder. It may be due to a variety of factors such as overexertion, stress, injury. 

neck pain and shoulder pain
neck pain and shoulder pain

Disc Degeneration

Disk degeneration often leads to neck pain. Older patients with arthritis often suffer from disc degeneration thus neck pain.  Since the progression of degeneration is faster in arthritis patients they usually suffer from severe pain.


Cervical Spondylosis

It is described as arthritis of the neck related to aging. As age progresses intervertebral discs lose moisture and space between the vertebrae narrows and the vertebrae begin to rub together. Bony growths are created to repair the damage created. Common symptoms occur is a pain in the neck and shoulder muscles with stiffness and tingling.


Neck Sprain

It is a form of neck sprain which also includes Whiplash.  Whiplash occurs when you suddenly whip your neck backward and forward. This stretches the muscles causing a sprain. It most commonly occurs after a car accident.

stretching for shoulder and neck pain
stretching for shoulder and neck pain

Pinched Nerve

 A pinched nerve in the neck or shoulder is due to continue pressure on a particular nerve while sleeping in the wrong position or working for long hours in an incorrect position.


Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injury is often accompanied by pain in the neck and shoulder. Your doctor may advise some tests like X-ray, MRI to diagnose the type of injury and thus would recommend the proper treatment.

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Heart Attack

If shoulder pain occurs suddenly and is not related to any recent injury it may be a sign of heart attack. It is accompanied by other symptoms such as difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, and pain in the neck or jaw too. You must consider this as an emergency and should call a doctor immediately.


Treatment of Neck and Shoulder Pain

Treatment of neck and shoulder pain depends totally on the cause, type, severity of the pain. Your doctor may advise medications such as NSAIDs or Corticosteroids, Surgery, Neck collar according to the condition. 

neck and shoulder massage
neck and shoulder massage

Homecare Remedies

Minor pains can be treated at home by following –

  1. Limiting overactivity, overwork, and resting the neck or shoulder may improve pain and you can return to normal activity.
  2. Icing the neck or shoulder for few minutes thrice a day can reduce pain. Ice should be wrapped in a towel or some cloth direct icing may cause frostbite.
  3. Some pain killers are really helpful in reducing minor pains in the neck or shoulders. Alternatively, natural remedies such as CBD are becoming increasingly more popular for treating aches and pains. You can trial CBD products by purchasing some online, which is made even easier with coupons, like those you can get for CBDistillery on CBD Insider and similar websites.  
  4. Compressing with elastic bandage reduces swelling.
  5. Massaging with medicated oil is also beneficial.


neck pain causes and symptoms
neck pain causes and symptoms

Various moves help to stretch and strengthen the muscles and reduce neck and shoulder pain. Some of the most helpful and easy to do stretching and exercises for neck pain and shoulder pain are explained below.


Simple Exercises for Neck Pain


Stretching especially in the morning or after continuous long working hours restores and maintains the flexibility of neck and shoulder muscles, improves motion thus reduces pain. 

Try stretching for at least 1-2 minutes on each move.


Side bend and rotation

Stand or sit facing forward in any position comfortable to you and tilt your neck once to the right. After 10 seconds slowly roll your head in a clockwise direction. Pause for 10 seconds when your head reaches to your left shoulder. Complete this rotation and repeat these steps for a minimum of 5 times.

side bend and rotation for neck pain
side bend and rotation for neck pain


Side to side rotation

This is a very simple exercise and can be done anytime and anywhere. Just sit in a comfortable position. First, tilt your head towards right and then towards the left making a semicircle. Repeat and do this 4-5 times in a day for the best results.


Touching Ear to shoulder

This is also a simple stretching exercise.

Start touching your ear to shoulder example touch your right ear to the right shoulder but don’t lift the shoulder. Repeat for the left one too. Try this 4-5 times a day for good results to relieve neck pain.

touching ear to shoulder for neck and shoulder pain
touching ear to shoulder for neck and shoulder pain

Touching chin to chest /sky

This is a simple stretching exercise in which you touch your chin to chest hold for 2 seconds and move it gently towards the sky. Repeat this 4-5 times a day.



Simple Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Rolling your shoulders

Stand facing front and roll your shoulders backward in circular motions for at least 5 rotations and then complete 5 rotations forward. This exercise relaxes muscle stress.

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Place both your arms on opposite shoulders, and bring your elbows such that they touch each other. Hold this for 4-5 seconds and release. You can do this simple exercise 4-5 To times in one go. It relaxes shoulder muscles and reduces pain.


Shoulder Circles

To increase the flexibility of shoulders you can perform this simple exercise

Stand and put your left hand on the back of the chair. Let your right hand hang down. Now circle your right hand in at least 5 times in each direction. Repeat this for your left hand. You can do this 3-4 times a day.

shoulder circles for shoulder pain
shoulder circles for shoulder pain

Table Slides

Sit on a chair or kneel in front of the table. Take a  towel, place both the hands on the towel, and grab the towel. Relax your shoulders and bend forward, slide your both arms forward. Hold on for 2-3 seconds and slide back.


Benefits of Simple Stretching and Exercises

The exercises are recommended to be performed on daily basis at least 5 sets a day for 10 minutes.

The simple stretching of neck and shoulder exercises have various health benefits. It reduces stress, the tension of muscles, relieves pain, increases the mobility of neck and shoulder, improves posture, increases flexibility, prevents injury.

causes of neck and shoulder pain
causes of neck and shoulder pain


Neck and shoulder pain especially due to overstress of muscles is very common as well as easily diagnosed and treated. Consistently practicing stretching exercises for a minimum of 10 minutes not only increases flexibility but also improves movement.

When the pain doesn’t improves with stretching or simple exercise, try using Pain-relieving medications along with massage therapy. You can also try icing therapy as required. Icing should be done using a towel otherwise it may lead to frostbite. Alternate heat and cold therapy are beneficial in relieving pain.

If the pain is severe or is followed by some trauma or injury one must see their doctor so that it gets properly diagnosed and treated.

Dr Jyotsana Anand
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