Looking at arm pain – Could it be coming from the neck?

We see many people visiting our office every week complaining of arm pain. Tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and even hands are some of the things that they mention. The pain and discomfort can start to effect sleep, exercise and sitting to watch your favourite TV show may mean lots of fidgeting. So could this arm pain be coming from the neck?

Symptoms from Nerve Pressure from the Neck

  • Pins and needles
  • Numbness
  • Weakness in arm
  • Sharp shooting pains

What can cause this Arm Tingling/Pins and needles, etc

Nerve Irritation

Referred pain, or as we say radiculopathy, can be originating from the neck. The nerves that normally run freely from the spine down the arms and hands can be compromised.

The nerves do the following:

  • Innervate muscles so you can move your shoulders, elbows and wrists
  • Allow you to feel sensations on your skin, allowing you to respond to the environment, such as hot things etc

Causes of nerve irritation (pressure)

  • Joints stuck in the neck. This can be helped by a chiropractor or osteopath to improve the function to the joints and reduce nerve interference down the arm. As chiropractors, we find that this is one of the main reasons resulting in arm pain be coming from the neck
  • Bulging discs can place pressure on the nerves
  • Advanced bony spurs from degeneration (osteoarthritis) can also place pressure on the nerves.   
  • Changes in the neck curve that is normally a forward curve of 40 degrees. When severely reduced or reversed, this can cause nerve irritation and referred pain down the arm.
  • Posture changes (thoracic outlet syndrome). Rounded shoulders, combined with forward head carriage can place pressure on the nerves as they enter the arms, causing referral down the arms.
  • Space occupying lesions, such as cancer, infection, cysts etc

All these reasons can irritate the nerve and cause referred pain down the arm. It is important not to ignore these problems and to investigate and find the cause.

Who should you see for help?

You can visit the following practitioners to help diagnose your cause of the referred pain:

  • Chiropractor or osteopath. We are primary health care practitioners that are trained to diagnose the cause of these problems. If we feel that your examination requires X-ray or further imaging, we will help to organise that.
  • Medical practitioner

Does Referred pain Always need Surgery

There is no black and white answer to this issue. If the problem cannot be resolved be improving neck joint movement with chiropractic or osteopathic adjustments, then looking at curve alignment is the next step.

Chiropractic BioPhysics (CBP) non surgical spinal corrective care

If an individual is a CBP candidate (as not everyone is suitable for this technique), and feels that surgery is the last resort, then a certified CBP practitioner may help. There is the most researched technique in the world on spinal curve correction.

A CBP Study

One study looks at how improving the normal forward side curve of the neck and head positioning along with other physical therapies had a more favourable outcome in radiating nerve pain than those subjects that had physical therapy alone.

The group that didn’t use the Denneroll did not show as significant improvements in arm pain, neck curve or head positioning and when this group we re-tested in the following year the improvements went back to baseline. In other words they got worse, whereas the Denneroll group maintained their improvements.

The study states that the improvement in the curve and head positioning was most likely the reason for the positive improvements in nerve pain and curve for those people studied, especially long term. (1)

  1. Ibrahim M MOUSTAFA, Aliaa DIAB, Shimaa Taha, Deed HARRISON “ARCHIVES OF PHYSICAL MEDICINE AND REHABILITATION 2016 “The addition of a sagittal cervical posture corrective orthotic device to a multimodal rehabilitation program improves short and long term outcomes in patients with discogenic cervical radiculopathy.”ARCHIVES OF PHYSICAL MEDICINE AND REHABILITATION 2016

Looking at a way to get into and out of the car without straining yourself, CLICK HERE. Here is a 3 minute spinal stretch you can do to break up your work day. CLICK HERE.

Lisa, CBP certified chiropractor

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