Though pain in the neck that makes its way down to the left shoulder usually has a benign orthopedic cause, lung cancer can also cause this symptom.

“Pain in the neck and shoulder region can be hard to discern,” says Reggie Alexander, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with Orthopaedic Specialists in Los Angeles, CA.

Dr. Alexander continues, “Patients should note if the pain starts in the neck or shoulder. Radicular symptoms (pain that starts in the neck and shoots down the arm) can be helpful in figuring out if the pain is coming from the neck or shoulder. Neck pain tends to radiate past the elbow into the fingers.

“Pain in the neck can be due to arthritis, a herniated disc, or muscle spasms — to name a few.

“Shoulder pain also has a variety of causes, such as rotator cuff tears or inflammation, impingement, acromiocalvicular arthritis or shoulder separation, or labral pathology.”

In rare cases, pain in the shoulder that does not respond to orthopedic treatments or physical therapy may actually be caused by lung cancer.

James Heilman, MD, CreativeCommons

The tumor is at the top portion of the lung and is making contact with a nerve that leads into the shoulder.

Dr. Alexander’s sports experience covers many teams including those at the University of Chicago and at UCLA. Surgical and pain areas of expertise include the rotator cuff, ACL reconstruction, neck, back, hip and foot.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.