NECK AND ARM PAIN DESCRIPTION AND CAUSES

Your neck, or cervical spine, has seven small vertebrae. Amazingly, it supports your head and brain — an average of 12 pounds. Also amazingly, your neck can move your head in almost all directions.

But it’s this delicateness and this flexibility that make the neck susceptible to injury and pain. 

Neck pain can be the result of injury, but it can also simply be a result of normal life — whether leaning into your computer at work or hunching over your workbench at home. And neck pain can be very troublesome. Symptoms can stretch into the upper back and arms.

As the spinal cord goes from the brain through the spine, it sends out nerve roots between the bones. The nerve roots form the nerves themselves, the nerves that go into our arms and hands. If these nerves become irritated or pinched, whether by a slipped disc, swelling or arthritic changes, the result will be arm pain.
This is sometimes caused by brachial neuralgia, often the result of a pinched nerve root in the neck. It is one of the most painful conditions we see — a deep, unrelenting ache that worsens at night.

If you can raise your arm above your head — and if that seems to lessen the pain — it can most likely be attributed to brachial neuralgia.
Tennis elbow, or golfer’s elbow, is another condition that brings people in for help. The nerve that controls the wrist is actually near the elbow. When is becomes irritated, it stiffens the elbow, making normal bending and movement painful.


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NECK AND ARM PAIN CAUSES

A fairly common cause of arm pain is the irritation of the nerves by a subluxated first rib in the neck. If it also affects the artery that carries blood to the arm, it is Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

Sometime neck pain is accompanied by upper back and/or lower back pain.

Neck and arm pain is typically associated with injury and accidents, including whiplash. But other disorders include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Slipped disc

Daily life can also wreak havoc on a neck, including:

  • Poor posture
  • Obesity
  • Weak abdominal muscles
  • Stress

Symptoms

  • Pain when turning or tilting your head
  • Inability to carry items in your arms
  • Pain when raising your arms above your head
  • Pain relief when raising your arms above your head
  • Pain radiating to other parts of your body
  • Pain while chewing
  • Stiff elbows or pain when bending your elbow
  • Dull aching pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Tenderness
  • Sharp shooting pain
  • Fullness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Shoulder pain
  • Arm numbness or tingling

NECK AND ARM PAIN TREATMENTS

We will begin with a thorough examination, including questions about your pain and its source, as well as what you have tried to alleviate it thus far. Dr. Aboudib will observe your posture, your range of motion and your general physical condition. He’ll feel your spine, noting its shape and alignment, and check for muscle spasms. Shoulders and arms are an integral part of a neck exam as well.

A neurological exam will involve your reflexes, muscle strength, nerve changes and the scope of the pain. Other tests, such as X-rays or a CT scan, may be ordered. Imaging can show whether there are disc problems, bone spurs or arthritis.

An adjustment, also called cervical manipulation, may be the next course of action. The joints of the neck are adjusted to increase mobility. Patients quickly notice a wider range of motion and decreased pain.

Treatment also can include spinal decompression of the pinched nerves. To get the pressure off the neck exercises and clinical massage. Muscles of the neck physical conditioning. Sometimes simple traction devices are needed.