back pain smDo I really have shoulder tendinitis, tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome all at the same time?

The short answer is it’s possible but highly unlikely. These are all common problems that people develop but to have them all at once means you must have done a real number on yourself. The more likely scenario is that you have a neck problem. Neck dysfunction is often the hidden cause of many upper extremity problems.

Nerve impingement in the neck will often cause referral pain into your shoulder, elbow and hands. Sometimes you can experience pins and needles as well. This impingement can appear as other common conditions such as shoulder tendinitis, tennis elbow and carpel tunnel syndrome, to name a few. However, there are subtle differences.

neck skeleton smThe neck is the master of referral pain. Referral pain is defined as pain felt in a part of the body away from its original source. I have successfully addressed thumb pain with treatments solely to the neck. Neck pain does give you some hints that the neck is in fact the problem. Referral pain from the neck often increases with neck movements. So your elbow or hand pain may increase when you look up. Weird, right? Referral pain from the neck is often influenced by your posture. People who sit at a computer for long periods of time often say “my shoulder gets sore when I do nothing” or “my arm goes numb when I am just watching Netflix”. A detailed assessment by a physiotherapist will definitively reveal if your arm pain is actually derived from a neck issue.

What causes neck pain? Lots of things, but some of the more common causes are osteoarthritis, poor posture, improper sleeping positions, car accidents, stress or muscle imbalances. The list goes on. The good news is that there are plenty of proven treatment options available that address neck dysfunction. So the next time you have pain somewhere in your arm that does not seem to be getting better, it’s worth booking a physiotherapy assessment to determine what it is and how it should be treated. Your body will be happier for it.

Tony Vu BSc.,PT, MDT
Registered Physiotherapist
Certified Acupuncture & McKenzie Practitioner