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What Is Causing Pain in the Top of the Shoulder That Extends Into the Neck?

author image Joshua Bailey
Joshua Bailey has been writing articles since 2006 with work appearing at and Bailey holds the following certifications: NASM-CPT, NASM-PES, NASM-CES and NSCA-CSCS. He also holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sports science from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a Master of Science in exercise physiology from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
What Is Causing Pain in the Top of the Shoulder That Extends Into the Neck?
Looking at a computer screen for long periods can cause pain in the neck.

Pain that runs from the shoulder to the top of the neck is a fairly common occurrence, with more than half the population experiencing an episode of neck pain at least once, according to the "British Medical Journal." There are several causes of this neck pain, and most are relatively harmless; however, there are some instances where this type of neck pain is a symptom of a more serious condition.

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Muscle Spasm

An acute spasm of certain muscles in the neck can cause a short-term pain that runs from the shoulder to your neck. The sternocleidomastiod, trapezius, levator scapulae and splenius all attach into the neck, connecting at different spots on your collarbone and shoulder area. A spasm causes some of these muscles to temporarily seize up and puts pressure on the neck and shoulder. Muscle spasms are normally caused from holding your neck in a poor postural position during activities such as watching television, using a computer or while sleeping. Keeping your neck in a neutral position is crucial in preventing a muscle spasm.

Muscle Strain

Exercise can cause another type of injury to the muscles that connect into the neck. A muscle strain of these muscles will cause inflammation and pain the runs from the neck to your shoulder. A strain occurs when a muscle is over-exerted while in a stretched position. This can be from not warming up properly or using poor technique during a lift. This type of pain usually subsides after two to seven days depending on the severity of the sprain. Ample rest is required and the head must remain in a neutral position.

Muscle Soreness

Exercise can also cause a positive type of "pain" that runs from the shoulder to your neck. Muscle soreness in these muscles can occur when you perform neck or shoulder exercises. Soreness is more likely to occur when you utilize weights that are higher than what you usually use. This type of soreness will gradually fade over the course of several days. Anti-inflammatory medicine can help mitigate some of this pain; however, consult your doctor to see if this type of treatment is suitable for you.

Serious Conditions

Pain that radiates from the top of shoulder to the neck can also be a warning sign for more dangerous or severe conditions. Arthritis can occur at any joint and the extreme mobility of the neck magnifies any arthritic issues that might be present. Degenerating spinal discs can also cause pain in this area. Degenerative neck pain will get progressively worse unless medical evaluation and treatment are given. Since neck pain around this area can be a precursor to these and other dangerous conditions, it is highly advised to consult a doctor for any unexplainable neck soreness.

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