Have you ever wondered if your arm pain is related to your neck?
We often have people contact our office in Boulder wondering if their arm pain could be related to their neck. This is a great question because in most cases the two are related and many people will seek out modalities to fix the arm pain without the consideration that it could be originating from the neck and not get the results they are looking for. Here we will outline the connection between the two, how it happens, things you should never do, and things that you should do if you are experiencing arm pain related to the neck.
Your brain controls all of the functions of the human body through the brainstem that then becomes the spinal cord and the peripheral nerves that go out to the entire body. This system is incredibly smart and is designed with top-down control meaning that when the brain wants to send a message to another part of the body it goes down through the brainstem, spinal cord, and then out to the area its trying to reach. The nerves that travel down your arm are physically directly connected to the spinal cord in the neck. What this means is that if you have an injury to the neck it can directly cause pain, numbness, or tingling in any part of the arm or hand. A serious example of this is an injury to the spinal cord that causes paralysis to an entire limb below that level.
How It Happens
The most common reason this happens is a trauma to the neck that results in arm pain, numbness, or tingling. It could be a macro trauma such as a car accident causing whip-lash or a micro-trauma such as prolonged repetitive poor posture. It may cause pain in specific portions of your arm or the whole arm depending on the nerves affected and the extent of the damage. It is important to note that you could have a trauma (small or large) to your neck and not notice the arm pain until days, weeks, or months later.
Things you should never do
First thing you should never do is anything that could potentially aggravate the pain such as strenuous exercise or extreme ranges of motion. Pain medications may be a good idea to take early on and depending on the severity of your pain but it is not a long term solution. Anti-inflammatory medication may actually cause stomach issues, if taken excessively, and it does not actually help in the healing process.
Things you should do
Initially heat may help with the pain and inflammation. Heat dilates the blood vessels in the muscles in your neck which allows more oxygen and nutrient delivery to the injured area. While immobilization early on is a good idea if you’ve experienced a major trauma if it is done for too long it can cause scar tissue to build up and ultimately alter the range of motion of your neck and create problems later on. After you have been through the initial phase of your healing process it is always a good idea to start moving again, slowly but surely, even if it hurts. Slow, gentle movements of the neck with help with the healing process and allow you to keep your range of motion.
If you’ve tried a variety of different things to try and help your arm pain with little success I suggest that you have your neck looked at to determine if it is the underlying cause. At our office we use objective technology such a infrared thermography and digital X-Ray to determine if a person’s neck is the root cause of their arm pain. We invite you to come in for a complimentary 15 minute consultation to discuss your case with one of our experts. To set up your appointment you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call our office at 303-442-5911. You can also fill out the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.