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Can the neck be involved with shoulder pain?

If your shoulder pain is in the region between the neck and the shoulder, between or around the shoulder blades or you have both neck and shoulder pain, odds are the neck is involved.  In the 1950’s, a study included injecting irritates into different levels of the neck and found neck pain commonly refers to the area between the shoulder blades and to the shoulder blades themselves. Because this is extremely common, we also test the neck on patients with shoulder pain to see if we can reproduce your exact “shoulder” symptoms with neck testing. If this is the case, we will likely start with treatment at the neck first to see if it makes a difference in your shoulder pain and limitations. 

Even if the neck is not involved, research has shown very favorable outcomes with neck and back treatments for shoulder pain. This concept is termed “regional interdependence.” Think of back and neck directed treatments as a control/alt/delete for the nervous system to decrease the symptoms you experience at the shoulder. 


  1. Cloward, R., 1959. Cervical Diskography. A Contribution to the Etiology and Mechanism of Neck, Shoulder and Arm Pain. Annals of Surgery, 150(6), pp.1052-1064.
  2. Sueki, D., Cleland, J. and Wainner, R., 2013. A regional interdependence model of musculoskeletal dysfunction: research, mechanisms, and clinical implications. Journal of Manual & Manipulative Therapy, 21(2), pp.90-102.

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