Conquer Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: Strategies for Long-Lasting Relief

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Our necks are incredibly handy for everyday tasks, like turning our heads to look around, finding a comfy sleeping position, and providing support for our heads while we’re cooking or working. The neck houses the cervical spine, which has two important jobs: It holds up your head and lets you move it around, and it keeps your spinal cord safe, which is like the body’s message highway between the brain and the rest of your body. Our neck works together with the muscles and tendons of the rest of our bodies. Because of the neck, we can do all these tasks and keep us in good shape.

Sometimes, when we feel pain in our neck or shoulders, it’s not just in one spot. It can spread to other places in our body. This pain may radiate to other parts of your body throughout the day. For example, if your neck hurts, it might make your arm hurt too, making it seem like you have a pinched nerve or a problem in your shoulder. And if your shoulder hurts, it can feel like your upper back or even your chest hurts, which can be confusing and make you think it’s a heart problem. Understanding this helps orthopaedic surgeons figure out where the real issue is.

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Understanding the Causes of Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck pain can happen for different reasons. It’s often because of problems with the intervertebral discs in your spine, the facet joints, or the muscles in your neck. The discs slip out of place, causing pain mainly in the neck area. Sometimes, the discs can press on your spinal cord or nerves, which can lead to chronic pain. On the other hand, the facet joints play an important role in your mobility. Facet joints can get injured by trauma or the normal wear and tear of daily life. This pain may also spread to your shoulders. Your neck has muscles that help you move it and keep it steady. This pain might also be felt in your shoulders and upper back. Usually, neck pain is a mix of these problems, so orthopaedic surgeons need to figure out the exact cause. Orthopaedic surgeons are specialists who diagnose and treat conditions involving your bones, joints, or muscles. These specialists perform diagnostic tests and then they decide on a personalised treatment plan for you. An orthopaedic surgeon’s goal is to help you alleviate pain and regain your mobility.

You should seek medical attention if you experience neck and shoulder pain that does not go away after rest and home treatments. Neck pain can cause various symptoms, including numbness and weakness in the upper limbs, shooting pain down the arms, loss of hand agility, unsteadiness in walking, posterior headaches, and tingling sensation over the back of the head. Lower limb complaints are less common and are usually due to concomitant lower back problems. These symptoms may indicate cervical radiculopathy, which is caused by the compression or irritation of a nerve in the neck that can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in the shoulder, arm, and hand. Other possible causes of hand pain and numbness include carpal tunnel syndrome.

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Diagnosis and Treatments for Neck and Shoulder Pain

When your neck or shoulder hurts, the orthopaedic surgeon will first conduct a medical interview of your current lifestyle, condition, and other important details. They may perform a physical inspection of the affected areas by moving your body and gently pressing on it to see where it hurts. You may undergo X-rays or MRI scans so your orthopaedic surgeon can diagnose your condition. All these tests will help your orthopaedic surgeon understand why your neck or shoulder hurts. Once they figure out the case, they can recommend ways to treat your condition, like prescribing medicine or requiring you to take physiotherapy sessions. Orthopaedic surgeons may also recommend pain procedures to target the source of pain.

There are different ways to alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with neck and shoulder pain. While following the specific instructions of your orthopaedic surgeon, you may need to take medications, engage in lifestyle changes, and do exercise to strengthen your neck and shoulders. In severe cases, patients may need to undergo surgery. Remember, neck and shoulder pain can have various causes. It is risky to try diagnosing and treating it yourself, especially for those who experience chronic pain.

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Debunking Myths About Neck & Shoulder Pain

Myth 1: Neck pain only happens to people with physically demanding jobs.

  • Some people think that only those with tough physical jobs can get neck pain, but that’s not true. Neck pain can happen to anyone, even if you have a desk job or if you sleep in a funny position. It’s crucial to find out why your neck hurts to get the right help.

Myth 2: Open surgery is the only option for treating orthopaedic conditions.

  • Some folks believe that surgery is the only fix for neck pain, but that’s usually the last thing to consider. Many other treatments don’t involve surgery and can help a lot. It all depends on what’s causing your neck pain, and your orthopaedic surgeon can figure that out.

Myth 3: Neck and shoulder pain only comes from injurious sources (accidents or falls).

  • People might think that shoulder pain always comes from an injury, but as we get older, our shoulders can hurt just from everyday use. Sometimes, issues in the neck and upper back can also make your shoulders ache.

Myth 4: My neck or shoulder pain will go away on its own.

  • Some folks hope that neck pain will just go away on its own, but that’s not always the case. It could be a sign of a bigger problem, so it’s essential to get it checked out. There are different ways to treat it, but it all depends on the diagnosis and treatment plan recommended by your orthopaedic surgeon.

Myth 5: Neck and shoulder pain is always a result of aging.

  • While neck pain can become more common as people get older due to wear and tear, it can affect individuals of all ages. Factors like poor posture, injury, and lifestyle choices can contribute to neck pain at any stage of life.

The Benefits of Physiotherapy in Reducing Chronic Pain Symptoms

Physiotherapy is an important part of healthcare because it helps people get better after they’ve been hurt or sick or had surgery. It’s like a special kind of treatment that helps people move better, feel less pain, and get back to doing the things they used to do. These are the benefits of physiotherapy:

  • Pain Relief: Physiotherapy can make your body hurt less and feel more comfortable.
  • Mobility and Movement: It helps you move more easily and do things like walking or bending without trouble.
  • Healing and Recovery: Physiotherapy can speed up your recovery from injuries or surgeries.
  • Stronger Muscles: It makes your muscles stronger, so you can be more active and stable.
  • Prevention: It can prevent future injuries by making your body stronger and healthier.

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Practical Tips to Help Manage Neck and Shoulder Pain

Lifestyle changes and tips to manage neck and shoulder pain at home:

  • Pay attention to your posture while sitting and standing. Keep your back straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • Arrange your workspace or computer setup to be ergonomic. Adjust your chair, desk, and monitor height to reduce strain.
  • Take short breaks every 30 minutes to stretch and move around, especially if you sit for extended periods.
  • Perform simple neck stretches and exercises to relieve tension. Gently tilt your head side to side and forward and backwards.
  • Apply a warm compress or ice pack to the sore areas for 15-20 minutes to reduce pain and inflammation.

Lifestyle changes and tips to manage neck and shoulder pain at work:

  • Ensure your desk and chair are at the right height to maintain good posture. Use an ergonomic chair and keyboard.
  • Position your computer monitor at eye level to avoid straining your neck by looking up or down.
  • Stand up, walk around, or perform quick stretches during breaks to keep your muscles active.
  • Practice stress-relief techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce tension that can contribute to neck and shoulder pain.
  • Consider using ergonomic accessories like a neck pillow, lumbar support cushion, or a standing desk converter if possible.


What are some tips for managing neck and shoulder pain?

Tips to manage neck and shoulder pain at home include maintaining good posture, doing regular neck stretches, and applying heat or cold packs for relief.

What are the benefits of physiotherapy?

Benefits of physiotherapy include pain relief, improved mobility, faster recovery from injuries, strengthened muscles, and injury prevention.

What is the role of orthopaedic surgeons?

Orthopaedic surgeons are important because they specialize in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, helping patients regain mobility and alleviate pain.

What are the symptoms of neck and shoulder pain?

Symptoms of neck and shoulder pain may include stiffness, muscle tension, limited range of motion, headaches, and localized discomfort.

Why is it important to take care of our neck?

Symptoms of neck and shoulder pain may include stiffness, muscle tension, limited range of motion, headaches, and localized discomfort.



Dr Yong Ren’s Profile

Dr. Yong Ren graduated from the National University of Singapore’s Medical faculty and embarked on his orthopaedic career soon after. Upon completion of his training locally, he served briefly as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital before embarking on sub-speciality training in Switzerland at the famed Inselspital in Bern.

He underwent sub-specialty training in pelvic and spinal surgery, and upon his return to Singapore served as head of the orthopaedic trauma team till 2019. He continues to serve as a Visiting Consultant at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Well-versed in a variety of orthopaedic surgeries, he also served as a member of the country council for the local branch of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Osteosynthesefragen (Trauma) in Singapore. He was also involved in the training of many of the young doctors in Singapore and was appointed as an Assistant Professor by the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Before he entered the private sector, he also served as core faculty for orthopaedic resident training by the National Healthcare Group.

Dr Yong Ren brings to the table his years of experience as a teacher and trainer in orthopaedic surgery. With his expertise in minimally invasive fracture surgery, pelvic reconstructive surgery, hip and knee surgery as well and spinal surgery, he is uniquely equipped with the tools and expertise necessary to help you on your road to recovery.

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Sarah Taylor

Obstetrics & Gynaecology