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The Hidden Source Of Your Neck And Or Shoulder Pain

author avatar Dr. Eric Berg 12/07/2023

Are you experiencing chronic shoulder and neck pain? Here's what you need to know about the root cause of the pain.

RELATED: Collarbone Stretch For Shoulder Pain and Tightness

In this article:

  1. The Mysterious Pain in the Right Shoulder

  2. How Does Gallbladder Issues Cause Pain in the Neck and Shoulder?

  3. How Can I Be Sure It's Gallbladder-Related Pain?

  4. What Causes This Inflammation?

  5. Can I Still Eat Nuts? What Should I Do?

The Root Cause of Shoulder and Neck Pain


The Mysterious Pain in the Right Shoulder

Young woman with pain in shoulder | The Hidden Source Of Your Neck And Or Shoulder Pain

I see it all the time: a patient comes to me suffering mysterious pain, usually in their right shoulder or rotator cuff. It’s a chronic pain that runs under their shoulder blade, up to the side of the neck or surrounding muscles, sometimes resulting in headaches, and they can’t pinpoint the cause. 

Rotator Cuff Definition: A cluster of tendons and muscles surrounding the shoulder joint, keeping the head of the upper arm bone firm.

They've never been injured in that area—they take good care of themselves, and often, they even report they've recently made some new, healthy lifestyle choices. What could possibly be wrong? Ninety percent of these people are suffering from gallbladder problems.  


How Does your Gallbladder Cause Pain in the Neck and Shoulder?

If you're experiencing this type of pain from gallbladder issues, the chronic neck and shoulder pain originates in your phrenic nerve. This nerve connects to the soft tissue near your gallbladder and runs up to the right side of your body, passing your liver and diaphragm, all the way to your neck, where it originates.

There is a duct on the gallbladder that, when clogged, pinches the phrenic nerve and causes shoulder and neck pain and even headaches.Sometimes, all this causes is some acute pain or a muscle spasm along the phrenic nerve path.This pain can be in the upper back around or under the scapula (shoulder blade), on the shoulder, along the collarbone, up to the side of the neck, and even in your head. In more serious cases, the pain and weakness can be more widespread and chronic in those areas, affecting your movements and posture.

Some people experience pain along their right arm or leg as well. In extreme cases, phrenic nerve compression can even cause rotation of the vertebrae in the neck.


How Can I Be Sure It's Gallbladder-Related Pain?

Young woman sitting on the bed with pain | The Hidden Source Of Your Neck And Or Shoulder Pain

Follow this simple exercise to ease shoulder and neck pain.

Use your hands or a massage tool for this simple diagnostic test: when you're feeling  shoulder and neck pain or shoulder tension and stiffness, press on the area of your gallbladder, firmly but gently, for about a minute.

You'll want to press just beneath your ribcage, about an inch to the right of your middle. If you feel muscle tension relief after this, you've definitely got gallbladder troubles. Also, try pressing on the back of your left calf just above the ankle for relief.

Then,ask yourself, "When did this pain start?" If it seems to flare up after you eat or you began noticing it when you made a significant change to your diet, that's another sign.

RELATED: Right Sided Rhomboid Spasm and Pain


What Causes This Inflammation?

The duct of the gallbladder is the source of the problem. It can become clogged with different oils from the food you eat. When that happens, it compresses the phrenic nerve and causes pain all along the nerve path. Other symptoms of a clogged duct include acid reflux, bloating, and belching after meals.

I've said in some of my videos and articles that eating fat is not nearly as much of a problem as we've been led to believe it is, but that comes with a caveat, of course!

Too much fat isn't great, and some people are more sensitive to certain fats and will have gallbladder symptoms as a result of consuming too much of them. Fats that come from plant sources like olive oil, flax, and raw nuts and seeds are common culprits; nuts are probably number one.

They're not the only cause, however. Irritating your liver can also cause phrenic nerve pain. Some people will aggravate their gallbladder and liver by eating too many refined carbohydrates or soy protein isolate, which is found in many faux meat products and protein bars.


Can I Still Eat Nuts? What Should I Do?

Mixed Nuts selection | The Hidden Source Of Your Neck And Or Shoulder Pain

Raw nuts give people a lot of trouble because they're such a good snack. They're convenient and filling as well as having no sugar and lots of protein, fiber, and fat.

They're an intuitive choice for people who are starting to form healthier food and fitness habits. When they start to cause phrenic nerve pain, it's very frustrating. Never fear! Nuts are not completely off the table. You just have to prepare them properly.

Don't eat plain raw nuts! Germinate raw nuts for gallbladder relief.

Germinating your raw nuts is easy, but it does require some planning. To germinate your nuts, simply soak them in fresh water overnight, in your refrigerator. In the morning, rinse them off and place them in the oven on a very low temperature or in a dehydrator.

This process releases digestive enzymes that make your nuts easier to digest and less taxing on your gallbladder. Roasted or plain raw nuts lack these enzymes and will only aggravate your symptoms.

If you have serious phrenic nerve pain, you may want to cut back on your nut intake regardless. If you eat nut butters, make sure they don't contain sugar. On top of most nut butters being made of roasted nuts that lack digestive enzymes, they areoften loaded with hidden, liver-aggravating sugar.

Eating more greens — like kale and wheatgrass powder — will also help support your liver and relieve some of these symptoms.

Phrenic nerve pain and gallbladder symptoms can be so serious or severe. I've stopped patients from getting treatment, surgery, or physical therapy in an attempt to correct the shoulder and neck pain.

Nobody had discussed the possibility of gallbladder trouble with them, even from a physical therapist or doctor. Luckily, you probably don't need surgery or a physical examination. You just need to eat your greens and soak your nuts! 

Knowing the source of shoulder and neck pain allows you to understand how this body ache causes trouble in your daily life. So, start eating leafy greens and soaking your nuts to reduce the risk factors of gallbladder problems.

Are you experiencing shoulder and neck pain? What are your remedies for pain relief and muscle stress? Share your experience in the comments section below.

Up Next: 

Understand the gallbladder and shoulder and neck pain connection and see more pain and inflammation advice from Dr. Berg Video Blog.Disclaimer: Our educational content

is not meant or intended for medical advice or treatment.Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for quality and relevancy. 

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