Reason for Neck and Shoulder Pain on the Left Side and Relief

Reason for Neck and Shoulder Pain on the Left Side and Relief

Left-sided neck and shoulder pain is a common medical condition affecting numerous individuals due to various causes. Exploring additional exercises and gentle neck exercises can help alleviate symptoms. According to a study, OCS, muscle strains, and cervical disc bulges are among the frequent culprits, with muscle strains often resulting from repetitive movements or maintaining static postures. Cervical disc bulges, which affect the outer layer of the soft discs separating the vertebrae in the neck, can lead to considerable pain and even numbness or weakness in the shoulder and arm areas due to pressure on the spinal nerves. Both conditions highlight the complex interplay of nerves and muscles between the neck and shoulder regions.

Cervical spondylosis, or cervical osteoarthritis, affects more than 85 percent of people over the age of 60. This condition, characterized by the wear and tear of the spinal discs in the neck, is a common cause of concurrent neck and shoulder pain, which can lead to symptoms like stiffness, pinched nerves, and intense pain. Additionally, neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal disorders, having an age-standardized prevalence rate of 27.0 per 1000 population in 2019.

This article will explore the causes of left-sided neck and shoulder pain and discuss effective relief methods. Understanding the potential causes of left-sided neck and shoulder pain is essential for effective management and relief.

What Causes Neck and Shoulder Pain on the Left Side?

Muscle Strain

Muscle strain is a common cause of left-sided neck and shoulder pain. It often results from repetitive movements, poor posture, or overuse of the muscles. Lifting heavy objects in an awkward position or spending extended periods in front of a computer can lead to muscle strain; frequent breaks can help mitigate this.

Cervical Disc Bulge

A cervical disc bulge occurs when one of the discs in the neck protrudes out of its normal boundary, causing the head to be held in an odd position. This can compress nearby nerves, causing pain, numbness, or weakness in the neck, shoulder, and arm. It is often a result of age-related wear and tear or previous injuries.

Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal column in the neck, often related to degenerative disc disease. This condition can pressure the spinal cord and nerves, leading to pain, muscle weakness, and other neurological conditions in the neck and shoulders. It is commonly caused by degenerative changes in the spine, such as arthritis.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) occurs when nerves or blood vessels between the collarbone and first rib are compressed, affecting the levator scapulae muscle and shoulder blade region. This can cause pain in the neck and shoulder, as well as arm pain. TOS is often related to poor posture, trauma, or anatomical abnormalities such as congenital torticollis.


Inflammation of the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the neck and shoulder can lead to pain due to forming a fluid-filled sac. Conditions such as tendinitis, bursitis, or arthritis can cause joint pain and discomfort on the left side of the neck and shoulder.

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve in the neck, also known as cervical radiculopathy, can affect nerve fibers, causing radicular pain that radiates into the shoulder and arm.. This occurs when a nerve root in the cervical spine is compressed or irritated, often due to cervical disc tears or bone spurs.


Whiplash injury is a severe condition commonly treated with a cervical collar after a rear-ending car accident. It results from a sudden, forceful back-and-forth neck movement, leading to muscle and ligament strain. Whiplash can cause pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder, especially if there are previous neck injuries.

Managing Left Side Neck and Shoulder Pain

Physical Therapy Techniques

Physical therapy is an effective treatment for managing neck and shoulder pain, as it can help modulate pain signals through electrical impulses. A physical therapist can develop a personalized exercise and stretching program, a form of conservative treatment, to address the specific cause of your pain. Techniques such as manual therapy, massage, and modalities like heat or cold therapy can also help reduce pain and improve function.

Exercises for Neck and Shoulder Pain

Regular activities such as motion exercises, including movements to improve range of motion, can help alleviate neck and shoulder pain. Here are some recommended exercises that can strengthen the neck muscles:

  • Neck Tilts: Slowly tilt your head to one side, bringing your ear towards your shoulder. Hold for 15-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • Neck Stretches: Pull your head forward, bringing your chin towards your chest. Hold for a few seconds and return to the starting position.
  • Shoulder Rolls: Roll your shoulders forward and backward in a circular motion to relieve tension.
  • Wall Push-ups: Stand facing a wall and place your hands on it at shoulder height. Perform push-ups against the wall to strengthen your shoulder muscles.
  • Resistance Band Pulls: Pulling exercises like those performed with a resistance band can improve your neck and shoulder muscles.
  • Yoga Poses for Neck and Shoulder Pain: Poses like Child’s Pose, Cat-Cow Stretch, and Extended Triangle Pose can help stretch and strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.

Posture Correction

Bad posture significantly contributes to neck and shoulder pain and can lead to decreased range of motion, so maintaining proper posture is crucial for prevention and management. Ensure that your workstation is ergonomically set up, with your computer monitor at eye level and your chair providing adequate support. Avoid slouching or hunching forward.

Stress Management

Managing stress is essential since stress can contribute to neck and shoulder pain. Alternative therapies such as acupuncture or chiropractic care can also help. Techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and muscle tension.

Over-the-Counter Remedies

Moderate pain can be managed with over-the-counter painkillers like relievers and muscle relaxants, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Anti-inflammatory medication can also help reduce pain and inflammation. Topical creams and patches may also provide relief for localized pain.

Self-Treatment for Left-Sided Neck and Shoulder Pain

Self-Treatment for Left-Sided Neck and Shoulder Pain

Self-treatment measures such as applying cold packs for a few days can help alleviate mild neck and shoulder pain during everyday activities. Applying ice or a hot water bottle to the affected area, and avoiding exposure to cold temperatures, performing gentle stretching, and practicing good posture can all relieve pain. However, it is essential to avoid any activities that exacerbate your persistent neck pain.

When to Consult a Doctor

While many cases of neck and shoulder pain can be managed with self-care, medical treatment is necessary if you experience severe pain, persistent symptoms, or signs of a more serious condition requiring an accurate diagnosis, such as numbness, weakness, or difficulty breathing. A healthcare professional can conduct a physical exam, diagnose properly, and recommend appropriate treatment options, including epidural or corticosteroid injections.


Left-sided neck and shoulder pain can be caused by various factors, ranging from muscle strain to more severe conditions like cervical stenosis or thoracic outlet syndrome. Understanding the underlying cause of your pain is crucial for effective treatment and relief. A range of conditions can be managed by incorporating physical therapy techniques, exercises, posture correction, stress management, over-the-counter remedies, and medical treatment options, which can help manage your painful symptoms and improve your quality of life. If your symptoms persist or worsen over a period of time, consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment, including diagnostic tests and blood tests if necessary.


What does it mean when your left shoulder and neck hurt?

Left shoulder and neck pain can be caused by various factors, including muscle strain, cervical disc bulge, or pinched nerves. Identifying the underlying cause, such as palpable lumps or a stiff neck, is essential to determine the appropriate treatment.

When should I worry about my neck and shoulder pain?

You should consult a doctor if you experience severe shoulder pain, persistent symptoms, or signs of a more serious condition, such as acute pain, numbness, weakness, or difficulty breathing.

How do I know if my neck and shoulder pain is heart-related?

Neck and shoulder pain can sometimes be a symptom of a heart attack, especially if it is accompanied by acute pain, shortness of breath, sweating, or nausea. If you suspect your pain may be heart-related, seek immediate medical attention.

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Dr. Cameron Moore

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

Helping active people STAY active

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Dr. Peyton Oules, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Peyton Oules, physical therapist, is a Brewster, Washington native who grew up as a small-town athlete. During her high school sports career, she suffered from two ACL injuries which led her to pursue a career in physical therapy. 

She began her studies by earning her Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science, Pre-PT at Eastern Washington University.  During her undergraduate studies, she spent much of her time playing volleyball and coaching at the high school level.  Dr. Oules continued her education to earn her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in Goodyear, Arizona.While in school, Dr. Oules became Certified in both Dry Needling and Myofascial Cupping.

Part of her clinical training included international travel to Sydney, Australia where she expanded her orthopedic skill set and had the opportunity to provide treatment for the athletes from the 2023 World Underwater Hockey Championships.

During her doctorate level studies, Dr. Oules learned the importance in making movement a lifestyle. She has a passion for sharing this knowledge with the community and getting her clients back to the activities they love.

Outside of the clinic Dr. Oules enjoys CrossFit®, hiking, traveling, and spending time outdoors with her dog, Rue. Some of her favorite adventures to date include hiking parts of the Grand Canyon and running across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 10k!

Dr. Peyton Oules’ Credentials:
•           Physical Therapist (PT)
•           Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
•           Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)

Dr. Khristian McGinley, PT, DPT Cert. DN

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Dr. Khristian McGinley, physical therapist, grew up here in Phoenix, as a competitive softball player with a longtime passion for health and wellness. After sustaining an elbow injury in high school and attending PT herself, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career helping people recover from injuries and getting back to doing what they love. She eventually received her B.S in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Arizona in 2013, then earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2017.

Dr. McGinley began her career with a passion in pediatrics and orthopedics, undergoing coursework to treat diagnoses such as torticollis, developmental delay, and toe walking. She also became certified in Dry Needling in 2017, and since then has been additionally trained in Dry Needling for Pelvic Rehabilitation. After the challenging birth of her first child, she developed a passion for treating the pregnant and postpartum population. She became specialty training in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation in 2021 and since then has focused her practice on helping moms achieve pain free pregnancy, peaceful childbirth, and complete postpartum recovery. She specializes in diagnoses such as urinary incontinence, diastases recti, pelvic organ prolapse, and pelvic pain.

Outside of the clinic, Dr. McGinley enjoys hiking, running, camping, weight lifting, and playing slow pitch softball. She loves spending as much time as she can outside with her husband and two children.

Dr. Khristian McGinley’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Meredith Wall, PT, DPT FAFS, Cert. DN

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Dr. Meredith Wall, physical therapist, grew up as a competitive athlete in basketball, gymnastics, soccer and volleyball. After sustaining an ankle injury and going to rehab as a young athlete, she instantly fell in love with learning about sports injuries and rehabilitation. This led her to major in Exercises Science at Grand Valley State University. After she graduated in 2010, she immediately pursued physical therapy to ultimately achieve her lifelong goals of becoming a physical therapist. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Grand Valley State University in 2013, graduating as a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society recognizing individuals with outstanding GPA in a college graduate program.

Dr. Wall continued her educational pathway through the Gray Institute receiving a fellowship in Applied Functional Science (FAFS). A FAFS is only obtained by a select number of practitioners, who deliver optimal care through the diagnosis and treatment of functional human movement. She also became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN) in 2017, is trained in the McKenzie Method to treat spinal pain, and most recently has become specialized in Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation. This specialty area allows her to treat women across the lifespan dealing with incontinence, diastasis recti, pelvic pain, and pain during or after pregnancy.

Dr. Wall’s special interests include diagnosing and treating active patients across the lifespan to help them return to optimal function. In her spare time, she enjoys Crossfit®, running, coaching youth sports, and traveling with her husband and three sons.

Dr. Meredith Wall’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of Applied Functional Science (FAFS)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Specialty-trained in Pelvic Floor Therapy

Dr. Cameron Moore, PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, CSCS, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Cameron Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, has always been very active with sports and activities starting with competitive motocross racing up to a semi-professional level and being a scholarship athlete in track and field competing at the division 1 level in college at Eastern Washington University in the triple jump. Cameron became interested in the profession of physical therapy after having knee surgery in high school and seeing the inter-workings of the profession. He pursued his bachelors degree in Exercise Science before moving to Phoenix to earn his Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) from Franklin Pierce University.

He then began specialization courses for spinal manipulation (Spinal Manipulation Institute) and dry needling (Dry Needling Institute). This lead Cameron in to becoming a Fellow of the American Academy of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT) through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy (AAMT) and earned a Diploma of Osteopractic®, a distinction and training that only a small percentage of physical therapist have completed.

Dr. Moore continues to be very involved with motocross riding, Crossfit®, Olympic weight lifting, running and an overall active lifestyle with his Wife (Michelle) and their Vizsla (Parker).

Dr. Cameron Moore’s Credentials

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Certified in Dry Needling (Cert DN)
  • Certified in Spinal Manipulation (Cert SMT)
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip Osteopractic)
  • Fellow Of The American Academy Of Manual Physical Therapist (FAAOMPT)
  • American Academy of Manipulative Therapy Fellow (AAMT)
  • Crossfit® Level 1 Certified (CF-L1)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified
  • USA Track and Field Level 1 Coach

Dr. Michelle Moore, PT, DPT FAAOMPT, Dip. Osteopractic

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Dr. Michelle Moore, physical therapist and co-owner, grew up as a competitive gymnast and developed a passion for healthy living from a young age. Her collegiate studies in Health Education at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and athletic background influenced her to combine her passions and pursue a career in physical therapy. She earned a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Franklin Pierce University in 2013.

Dr. Moore continued her educational pathway through the American Academy of Manipulative Therapy where she earned her Diploma Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic) and became Certified in Dry Needling (Cert. DN), and Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT). From 2016-2017 Dr. Moore completed the rigorous coursework to become a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy (FAAOMPT), a distinction held by only a fraction of the profession.

Dr. Moore’s special interests include treating active individuals and returning them to the activities that they love. In her spare time she enjoys Crossfit®, Olympic Weightlifting, mountain biking, hiking, and traveling with her husband, Cameron, and dog, Parker.

Dr. Michelle Moore’s Credentials:

  • ​Physical Therapist (PT)
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)
  • Fellow of American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists (FAAOMPT)
  • Diploma in Osteopractic® (Dip. Osteopractic)
  • Certified Dry Needling (Cert. DN)
  • Certified Spinal Manipulative Therapy (Cert. SMT)
  • Crossfit® Mobility Certified