T Nation

Shoulder/Upper Trap Pain

I’ll try to keep this short…I have been dealing with shoulder/upper trap (as in the long part from where my shoulder ends all the way to my neck.) sorry I don’t know all the proper terminology. The pain comes and goes from a 2-8/9 on a scale of 1-10. I lose sleep over it and haven’t really been able to lift for the past 8months. I went to a shoulder specialist a few months back and he did an xray/mri but the results were normal. I then spoke to 3 PT’s and they all said impingement syndrome so I did physical therapy for twice a week for about a month and a half with little to no improvement. I don’t know where to go from here I was told that the inflammation should go down after a few weeks but after 8 months theres been little to no relief. It has gotten so bad that I can’t even run sometimes because it hurts to move it even that little bit. Sometimes the pain is most severe in my should joint while other times it is most severe in what i call the middle of the upper trap. I get this pain even when I am not working out. I have rolled shoulders which I am trying to correct.

    I have a kidney problem so taking anti inflammatory medications ( even motrin) are a big no no for me. Other than taking fish oil and glucosamine what can I do? Should I go to another shoulder specialist? As a side note I recently got blood work done for my kidney and my calcium was slightly higher than normal. I believe 1.3 instead of the normal 1.2 and my kidney function while still normal when from 1.2 to 1.0 my Dr. wasn't worried about these things at all.Sorry I don't know what the scale is on these. I also get pain in my kidney area which my Dr. said has told me is a just muscle strain and that I shouldn't worry (sharp stabbing pain) if that matters at all. Thank you all for your help it's much appreciated.

Any numbness or spasms in the shoulder or arm?

Sometimes my arm does go numb/gets a tingling feeling

Any help here would be greatly appreciated.

Do you find that when u wake up on your shoulder or have been sleeping on your side during the night you awaken with aches and pains in this area?


thanks for the reply. yes its my left shoulder and I try not to sleep on it but when I do it is definitely very sore the next day.

Firstly I’d stretch your rhomboids, traps, shoulders in general every morning and whenever you have the chance to do so as this will loosen them up and aid recovery. Then get some massage (it can be expensive thats the only isue - suppose depends on where u live in the world)!

Then i would try and strengthen the shoulder cavity / rotator cuff muscles themselves. They may be inflammed or damaged from heavy lifting, technique issues, lack of rest, poor posture, sitting at your desk all day at work with a slumped position, the list goes on. Avoid lifting heavy with the shoulders and go to a physio and ask them for the green theraband i think its called - its a stretchy band that you can tie to a door handle and perform various rotator cuff rehab movements with.

Another one - stand near a wall, place your hand on the wall with your arm extended fully above your head, keeping your hand on the wall lean your weight into your arm until u feel it in your shoulder and this will work as a recovery exercise as well. You can find plenty of shoulder rehab routines on you tube.

Do you suffer from tension? I did years ago and we all do sometimes - the tension from your traps will spread all the way from your shoulder right up into your neck where it connects to the skull! its a right old pain!!

MASSAGE, STRETCHING, SHOULDER / RHOMBOID / ROTATOR CUFF rehab exercises - textbook causes of your symptoms.

Cheers and hope it gets better.

bigpicture, where specifically is your pain? where specifically do you get your numbness tingling? Of what part of your body was the original MRI taken, at the shoulder or at the neck? How did you initially hurt yourself? Much more information is needed before any solid suggestions could be given due to the complexity of your case, with the long term ongoing pain and numbness.

Keenans2000, can I ask what your background is? What schooling/certifications you have? I only ask because I noticed a pattern to many of your posts. Responding to only shoulder posts (even ones that hadn’t been discussed for up to 5 years) and asking roughly the same thing “do you find it hurts when sleeping on it”.

Your advice given seems to be the same as well for all threads, and in this case may not be the best situation, especially since there is a lot of information we don’t have. The best phrase that I have been told is “when all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail”. Not every situation is going to respond well to the same advice you have given.

Thanks for both replies.@ LevelHead The MRI was done only on my shoulder checking for labrum/rotator cuff tears. There was not any specific injury to my shoulder. It basically just started feeling sore one day then kept getting worse. There was no moment when I felt extreme pain that I know of. I do recall one time when my shoulder really felt pain when i was doing shrugs with 105lbs dumbells. It almost felt like something tore but I didn’t feel much pain after that moment.

I wish I could tell you a specific instant in which i knew I injured myself but I honestly never had one. As for the pain, the location varies. Sometimes I get pain just from running in either my shoulder joint, clavicle, or upper middle trap. It varies so much so I cannot really pinpoint one specific location. The pain tends to be worse when I do pull exercises mainly when I do back exercises.

When I do chest I still do feel pain but much less than when I do back for example. I get numbness from my shoulder down to my fingertips. Thanks again and if there are anymore questions or if you want me to try to explain something better please let me know.

ps when I was felt the pain doing shrugs it was where my neck and trap meet but like I said after that day I didn’t really have much pain so i just shrugged it off so to speak.

just came back from a short run…clavicle and back of trap where it is connected to neck killing me. Does anyone know a good shoulder specialist in Boston?

Please see the attached photo. Ignore all of the X’s and shading, etc. Can you circle specifically where your pain is occurring and explain when it hurts and repost it? Your descriptions are a bit confusing and I think this is the best way to get an absolute idea of the location of your pain.

sorry I meant clavicle not scapula. I don’t know how to edit the picture so I can circle it. I have a mac if anyone knows how to do it. ill try to explain my pain using the picture. In the 1st image I get pain right were the 2 X’s are. I also get pain right in my shoulder joint and clavicle. I also get pain where there is red in the 3rd picture only on the left side and slightly higher. When I figure out how to edit the picture i will post it. Thanks again for the replies.

For mac, save the picture. Open the picture. Click annotate at the top (next to Move, Text, and Select). Tool bar at the bottom of the image will open. Click the circle and then u can draw the circle on the image.

the pain is also in the left side of my clavicle in addiction to the circled areas

I also made a Dr. appointment for a shoulder specialist at the Boston Shoulder institute in the Bringham and Women’s Hospital in a few weeks. Should I try a different type of Dr. other than a shoulder specialist. I ask this b/c the last shoulder specialist I saw didn’t give me any advice on what to do since there was no labrum/rotator cuff tear.

Have you had your AC joint examined? Also, you may want to have your neck evaluated to make sure there is nothing stemming from there (facet syndrome, disc pathology, nerve impingement).

Thanks for all the help LevelHeaded no I haven’t had my AC joint examined only the rotator cuff/labrum. As for the neck evaluation what type of DR would I go see? Could I ask the shoulder specialist to basically give me an MRI of my shoulder/upper neck area or something like that or would I need to see a different type of DR? Thanks again.

If you have the appointment with the shoulder ortho, I’d keep it since appointments with orthos can be hard to schedule at times. Just ask him/her their opinion on the possibility that it could be coming from your neck and go from there. If the doc feels extra evaluation from a neck/spine ortho is needed, he will refer you to one.

THanks for all the help LevelHeaded. I am going to keep the Dr appointment and hopefully I can finally get some relief. Just out of curiosity does anyone have any suggestions on what could be wrong with my shoulder given my symptoms? Thanks again