Chiropractors often find that in cases of arm pain, injuries to neck discs and nerves, muscles, joints and ligaments in the neck are often overlooked. It is very common to have referred pain from these structures causing pain in the arm. Here we will cover some conditions that are often seen by a chiropractor that also relate directly with the structures of the arm.
There are thirty bones, over forty muscles and fourteen major nerves making your arm more diligent, dexterous and adaptable than any tool mankind can emulate. Arm pain is a warning signal and should not be ignored. Often arm pain is caused by injury to the area of pain but it can also be an indication of a more serious underlying problem.
Positions that strain muscles repetitively are likely to result in an insidious onset of wrist or forearm pain such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).
- Diagnosis: It is important that your chiropractor know exactly what is going on to create a proper treatment program specific to your injury. Diagnosis will include any recent history of accidents or trauma, where the pain is centered and how it radiates through the arms if at all. You may also require an MRI scan to see if the nerves are being compressed through a herniation or other skeletal issue. Once your doctor knows what nerves are affected from the brachial plexus, he can target the area to release pressure on them.
- Treatment: Dr. Pisarek will examine you and conduct diagnostic tests to determine exactly what is causing your arm pain. Once the problem has been pinpointed, the appropriate chiropractic treatment will begin. Through treatment and with a few modifications to your lifestyle, Dr. Pisarek will correct the cause of your pain and use several modes of treatment to release muscle tension and alleviate pressure on the nerves. This may include deep tissue massage, low-level laser therapy, electrical stimulation and ultrasound. Spinal decompression traction may also be used. Your spine may not be adjusted at every chiropractic appointment. It is important to trust your chiropractor and relax through treatments and adjustments. This may be difficult but is essential to working the "kinks" out of the brachial plexus. Depending on the severity of your situation, you may require one adjustment or many office visits. If your condition is not improving or worsening, talk to Dr. Pisarek about other alternatives.
Chiropractic vs. Orthopedic: Realize that while many patients achieve great results from chiropractic care, you may require more aggressive medical procedures to restore nerve space and reduce compression. Talk to your chiropractor and general practitioner about the best course for you. You may need to go to an orthopedic specialist who can review your diagnostic images to see if there is a bigger problem than initially assumed. While chiropractors offer valuable services which are considered a conservative method of spinal and nerve pain treatment, they are limited to what they can diagnose and treat.
Other Conditions That Can Cause Arm Pain:
Cervical Radiculopathy (Neuropathy, Neuralgia, Neuritis)
Cervical radiculopathy, also known as cervical neuropathy, is the damage or disturbance of nerve function that results if one of the nerve roots near the cervical vertebrae is compressed. Damage to nerve roots in the cervical area can cause pain and the loss of sensation in different parts of the upper extremities, depending on where the damaged roots are located.
- Causes of Cervical Radiculopathy: Damage can occur as a result of pressure from material from a ruptured disc, degenerative changes in bones, arthritis or other injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots. In middle-aged people, normal degenerative changes in the discs can cause pressure on nerve roots. In younger people, cervical radiculopathy tends to be the result of a ruptured disc, perhaps as a result of trauma. This disc material then compresses the nerve root, causing pain.
- Symptoms of Cervical Radiculopathy: The main symptom of cervical radiculopathy is pain that spreads into the arm, neck, chest, upper back and/or shoulders. A person with radiculopathy may experience muscle weakness and/or numbness or tingling in fingers or hands. Other symptoms may include lack of coordination, especially in the hands.
- Treatments of Cervical Radiculopathy: Chiropractic care management of this condition might include gentle cervical traction and spinal/joint mobilization; including physiotherapy comprised of low-level laser therapy, stretches, exercises and other modalities to reduce pain and inflammation. If significant compression on the nerve exists to the extent that motor weakness results, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure. Dr. Pisarek will then discuss this with you for a referral to the appropriate health care provider.
Medically, cervical radiculopathy may be treated with a combination of pain medications such as corticosteroids (powerful anti-inflammatory drugs) or non-steroidal pain medication like ibuprofen (Motrin or Aleve) and physical therapy. Steroids may be prescribed either orally or injected epidurally (into the space above the dura, which is the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord).
Arthritis - Arthritis is the body's way of trying to stabilize unstable joints. Joints can become unstable for many reasons from trauma to overuse. If joints are allowed to remain unstable, they start to fuse stopping you from carrying on with everyday activities. he wrist and hands are often the first place arthritis attacks.
Silent Injuries - Common injuries such as scaphoid fractures (fracture to a small bone between your thumb and your wrist), ligament tears and joint strains often cause immediate pain and swelling around the area of the trauma. Injuries of this kind need immediate consultation from a health professional.
Constant Overuse - Constant overuse or micro trauma can go unnoticed on a daily basis. If you go to the gym, play racket sports, use a computer, play musical instruments or even text on a mobile phone enough, then overuse is a likely cause of pain.
Arm Pain due to Poor Posture - One of the most common postural distortions is that of forward head and forward shoulders. This shift of posture causes muscular tension in the shoulders and the neck having to cope with the weight of the head (the average head weighs as much as a bowling ball!) Muscular tension can cause pain to be referred into the arm causing a deep ache that often gets worse as the day goes on.
A Pain in the Neck - When neck pain is caused by muscle strain, you may have aches and stiffness that spread to the upper arm and forearm. Shooting pain that spreads down the arm into the hand and fingers can be a symptom of a pinch nerve in the neck. When a nerve has been pinched in the neck, numbness and weakness of the hands or arms, as well as pain, may occur.
A Pain in the Heart - Heart problems can often cause referred pain in the left arm due to the shared neural pathways in the spinal cord. Information about the heart can be confused in the spinal column leading to apparent pain in the arm. Arm pain accompanied by chest pain or shortness of breath may signal a heart attack.
Call Dr. Pisarek now at (416) 633-3000 to schedule an appointment to
make your arm pain suffering "a thing of the past"!