Can a Rotator Cuff Tear Cause Neck Pain?
A lot of times when I’m evaluating patients in the clinic who do have a rotator cuff tear, they’ll often complain of neck pain. A lot of times it radiates from the top of the shoulder up to the base of the neck. Kind of in the distribution of the trapezius muscle and that is actually a really common finding that I hear from patients.
When we do have those injuries specifically to the rotator cuff, we start changing the way that we use our arm and we do a lot of guarding or splinting because we’re trying to prevent that pain.
And so, these muscles typically on the top of our shoulder and into our neck will, oftentimes, somewhat have spasms as a result of that kind of downstream problem that they are having with the rotator cuff. These things kind of go hand in hand and, oftentimes, as you treat the underlying problem or the rotator cuff tear, those neck issues will resolve on their own, but I would say it is very important as a clinician… doing a physical exam and taking a thorough history.
Doing a really good physical exam, is kind of sorting out patients who do have a neck-based problem that is referring pain to the shoulder and vice versa, a shoulder-based problem that is referring pain to the neck, because we want to make sure that we are focusing our treatment to the true, underlying source.