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What is neck and shoulder pain?
Your neck and shoulders contain muscles, bones, nerves, arteries, and veins, as well as many ligaments and other supporting structures. Many conditions can cause pain in the neck and shoulder area. Some are life-threatening (such as heart attack and major trauma), and others are not so dangerous (such as simple strains or contusions).
Risk factors for shoulder and neck pain include athletic activity, heavy lifting, throwing, moving luggage or other heavy objects, and aging.
What are symptoms and signs of shoulder and neck pain?
All pain seems sharp, but pain can also be described as dull, burning, crampy, shock-like, 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 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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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