ZocdocAnswersWhat causes shooting pain from the shoulder to the head?

Question

What causes shooting pain from the shoulder to the head?

If I move my neck in a certain way, I feel the sensation of shooting pain from my shoulder to my head. I'm a man in my 40s, and I've had chronic back problems. Is this related? What could cause this shooting pain?

Answer

Any severe pain that you have should be assessed and treated by a doctor. There are many causes of shoulder pain. Shoulder pain can be a result of a problem in the shoulder itself. This can include anything from a torn ligament due to an injury, to arthritis in the joint, to a more serious systemic condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, pain in the shoulder can also be a result of nerve pain, which originates from our back or spinal cord. The spinal cord is connected to the brain and runs down the back. It carries many sensory signals, including the signal for pain. It is possible that a slipped disk or narrowing of the bones in the back can cause impingement or pinching of the nerves that come out of the spinal cord and innervate the shoulder. This pinching can also occur because of osteophytes, or small outgrowths that can occur from the bone as part of the aging process. This phenomenon could explain why you experience a shooting pain in your shoulder, when you turn your neck in a certain position. This should be completely assessed by a physician to ensure that there is no serious underlying problem and there is no associated muscle weakness or sensory loss. At that time, an MRI of the neck can be ordered to look at the relationship between the bones and the nerves and try to discern whether this explains your pain.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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