Shoulder and Arm Pain

by | Mar 6, 2023 | Pain Relief

Shoulder & Arm Pain

Shoulder and arm pain treatmentEver wondered where that pain in your arm or shoulder is coming from? It's helpful to know that pain in your arm may actually be coming from your spine, neck or even your upper back – and osteopathy is here to help! Commonly shoulder and arm pain is felt on the ‘top outside' part of the upper arm.  You may find it difficult to lift the arm, reach behind (ie to the bra or back pocket ), and sometimes it is so bad people feel like they don't know what to do with the arm, as almost every position hurts.  This can be associated with pins and needles, neck pain or pain behind the shoulder blade. 

Causes of Shoulder or Arm Pain


Neck or Back Pain Injury

At the Living Centre Clinic in Wimbledon, the most common arm pain we see comes from the spine (not the arm!). Typically this may be associated with neck pain, headache, and or pain behind the shoulder blade.

Shoulder Injury

We also see primary damage to the shoulder, often known as a rotator cuff injury (ie supraspinatus, tendinitis). This happens when the shoulder has been strained. For example lifting something heavy, playing sports, or a direct trauma to the shoulder.  In these cases it is important to work out which muscle or  tendon has been damaged, as only then can the right treatment be given.

Frozen Shoulder

When the shoulder is not rested, and we continue to demand work from it (even though it is injured), eventually the body can shut down the shoulder. Simply put it stops the shoulder from working to prevent more damage. There are other causes of a Frozen Shoulder, but this is the most common, ie following an injury. Our osteopathy team always recommend you come in asap to find out what is going on, as an untreated shoulder injury or a frozen shoulder can last from months to typically 2 – 3 years.

Trapped Nerves & Referred Pain

There are ways in which pain can appear in the shoulder or arm, and in these cases the treatment needs to be in the neck.

1. Trapped Nerve

painful areas of the arm

Nerves follow a predefined course from the vertebrae in your neck into and down your arm to your hand. This complex motorway of nerves allows us to move our limbs and feel sensation see image.

Sometimes, one or more of these nerves get trapped where they exit the spine and cause pain / tingling somewhere along its course. This can result in symptoms in the shoulder, upper arm, forearm or fingers. We use the site of pain to our advantage by tracing the nerve back to where it's pinched in the neck. That's the reason why people are often asked to identify exactly where the pain is or which fingers are affected. Each of the numbers in the image tell us where to look in the neck.

2. Referred Pain

Referred Pain is pain that is perceived in a different area to where the injury is. For example in the early stages of a heart attack people may feel pain in the left arm – and nothing in the chest. Similarly there are cases of arm and shoulder pain where the arm is ok, the problem is in the spine. It's only by fixing the issue in the spine (ie neck or back) can the arm pain be alleviated. 

Bad Posture as Source of Shoulder or Arm Pain

We all know good posture is important, maintaining it, however, can be difficult especially with long commutes, desk work and stress. But did you know that bad posture can be another cause of shoulder and arm pain? Sitting or standing with the back in a slouched position changes the mechanics of your shoulders and they tend to round forwards. Your arms are now in a position that's likely to put strain on the muscles and joints in your shoulders which can, over time, become very sore!

Osteopaths can gently stretch your back, open up your chest and realign your body back to its neutral position, thus reducing the strain on your arms making day to day life pain free.  We can also provide you with useful advice on how you can improve your posture yourself. Here is a simple exercise you can do to loosen your shoulders to get you started.

Self Help Top Tips for Beating Shoulder and Arm Pain

Download our useful tips on
Using Hot / Cold
Using Ibuprofen / Paracetamol
Video on caring for your Shoulder
In the meantime here is a better way of using a cell phone or tablet:

3.  Free Exercise PDF


 The Living Centre Clinic in Wimbledon has a special interest in all forms of spinal and joint pain

Call 0208 946 2331×3  to see how we we can help you today.

NOTE: all advice and exercises are for guidance only. Every pain is different. These exercises may not agree with every back-pain complaint, so please stop immediately if pain arises. You are adviced to seek professional help before following the advice or exercises.

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