Q. Can mild straightening of neck result in right-sided neck and shoulder pain?

Answered by
Dr. Ismail Kabakus
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan
This is a premium question & answer published on Jul 22, 2020

Neck pain on right side and shoulder pain on right side. Occasional shooting pain/soreness down right arm. Last two weeks and still on and off.

For the past two weeks I have been having on and off pain on my right side of the neck. Occasionally, there is pain on my shoulder and shooting/throbbing pain down my right arm. Sometimes I feel some soreness on the left side of my back but that is usually not as bad as the right. The issue gets worse when I use my right arm a lot. I used to take celebrex and flexeril for one week but I stop because I thought I was getting better. I haven't been taking any medicine for a week but yesterday I started taking NSAID (advil). Cervical MRI and X-Ray (X-ray result is normal, shows mild straightening of neck).



There is cervical spinal straightening which is usually due to postural abnormality, prolonged stay in front of laptop...etc

Good news inter-vertebral discs are healthy so there is no irreversible damage. There is only minimal bulging of the disc at C4-5 and C5-6 which affects right C5 and C6 nerve roots which innervate shoulder and all the way to the hand. (https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/spine-anatomy/cervical-spinal-nerves)

NSAID and exercise helps a lot. Also do not stay in the same position for long period of time. Hope this answers your question.

The Probable causes:

Cervical disc disease

Thank you for your response! So essentially, I pinched nerve on C5-6 is that correct? Is there a reason why my right side is hurting more than my left? Is there any muscle inflammation as well?

I have been stretching for the past 2 weeks but sometimes I feel like it aggravates the pain so I stop stretching for now. Should I just take NSAID and rest and then after I feel better, do some stretching? Do I need to seek physical therapist? It will go away with rest and time right? I am just worried because its been 2 weeks and the pain still persisted.

Thank you again for your help! So sorry for a lot of questions.
# I am happy to answer all the question. In my daily practice, we as radiologist usually do not see the patients and do not have the chance to listen to patients symptoms.

Here, I have that chance. Answers to your questions:

Not all the muscles are in the field of view but I do not see any muscle inflammation.

Since you already mildly injured the nerve root, it is now more sensitive to motion. You can continue NSAIDS, Advil helps a lot but be careful not taking to many, it may have some side effects on stomach.

After you get well, do some mild exercise. Do not stay in the same position for long time. Try to watch some videos showing ideal neck posture, adjust your table, laptop.. etc according to that.

Since inter-vertebral discs looks healthy, there is no tear in them. I assume all your symptoms are reversible. You should be totally fine after some time with correct treatment.

Physical therapist may help but not sure if you need to pay extra for them. I believe you can treat yourself with a lil help from youtube videos.
Thank you so much. Is it possible that the C-5/C-6 affects the left side too? Yesterday, I feel some soreness through my left hand side as well but not as severe as the right hand side.

Is it also possible for the symptoms to be on/off for a couple of weeks before it gets better? The pain has been on/off for the past two weeks so I am a little worried.


It is definitely possible. Disc bulge is central to the right, it may also affect the left side. Depending on the posture, the pain may be on and off. Try to avoid to be in a position that induces pain. There are many videos online related to how to protect your neck posture. Do not push too hard.

NSAIDS are very effective to resolve the edema in impinged nerve roots. I would like to tell you that your cervical discs looks very healthy so if you try to be careful, all symptoms will be gone very soon.

Thank you so much. Is it possible that the disc bulging causes tight neck/tension headache as well? So I should rest and be careful of my posture until my pain is better and take NSAID. After my pain is better I can start following stretches online that is targeted at C5-6 nerve. So I can expect recovery in a couple of weeks is that correct? Nothing serious and disc bulging can be reversed with good posture and stretches.

# Neck pain may induce headache although disc herniation is not directly related to headache.

Yes, give it some time, Non-Steroid-Anti-Inflammatory Drug Adsvil will decrease inflammation and edema.

Nothing serious is seen on MRI. Spinal cord signal intensity normal.

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