T Nation

Unexplainable Neck and Shoulder Pain


For the past 2.5 years i’ve been experiencing neck and shoulder pain which has really limited me on what I can do physically. I used to be extremely active with weightlifting and playing sports but my injuries have almost completely prevented me from activity.

Anytime I try any form of activity that involves my shoulder I begin to get swelling in my right trap starting from my neck and ending between my shoulder blade and within my shoulder itself. Swelling will also form at the acromian process and I will feel tightness with my pec minor at the chest/ribs insert. During activity if I feel or hear a few painless clicks I know that my shoulder will swell up for at least 2-3 weeks.

I have seen 3 doctors so far and the first one (about 2.5 years ago) said nothing is wrong as I pass every shoulder strength test and no ligaments seem to be affected. The second doctor (~2 years ago) recommended a neck MRI which showed some minor disc bulging but nothing he seemed concerned about. He sent me to physical therapy for a while which helped and I was actually able to get back to weightlifting for about 2-3 months.

During the 2-3month weightlifting period I would try to avoid any exercise that would cause my shoulder to pop but as time went on more and more workout began causing this issue until my shoulder was almost unusable. I went back to the same doctor and got a shoulder MRI. The MRI showed a 10% thickness tear of my supraspinatus as it was being impinged upon. He recommended a subacromial decompression surgery which I had performed on me Aug 31, 2016.

I went to rehab for about 2 months for that surgery and was making a slow recovery through the start of this year. As I transition from rehab exercises to light weights my shoulder gives out and immediately swells up at any hint of weighted activity.

After 4-5 months of trying to rehab it and continuously injuring it again I begin losing my drive to get back to full health and just focus on work heavily which involves me sitting at a computer all-day. After a while my neck and shoulder are extremely locked up and my neck begins popping which causes extreme headaches and throbbing neck pain. Just to get through work somedays I would need to take prescription pain relievers.

After months of just dealing with the pain and remaining inactive I began massaging my neck with lacrosse balls and light stretching which will sometimes help and sometimes hurt it more. I fixed my work station to be more ergonomic which has helped a good bit with pain at work but I still struggle to get back to activity.

I went to a third doctor who ended up being a joke and gave me one stretch and told me to do push-ups and if that doesn’t work come back in 4 weeks. As of right now I’m doing whatever I can to remain active whether that’s walking, running or yoga.

At this point I am a little unsure what to try next. I am considering getting another neck MRI just to be sure nothing has changed since the previous MRI 2 years back. If anybody has any suggestions on things to try I am open to ideas.

When the supraspinatus is torn/injured, the trap takes over in an attempt to compensate. After a while, the trap gets overworked and knots up.
My wife has dealt with this for years from a deadlift strain, though not as bad as yours. Not much has worked. She gets cortisone injections, pressure point massage, so forth. Pullaparts and facepulls work a little. Youtube has a video of “Trapezius active release technique” that works good for her even though the issue is the supraspinatus.