Arm and Shoulder Pain

Is it Really a Pain in the Neck?

Shoulder Neck PainMany times, people will come into my office complaining of pain in their arms or legs that seems to "travel" or come and go. They are frequently surprised when they learn that their pain and its source are not always in the same area of the body. More often than not, pain will move around or "refer" through tissues due to pressure on the nerves causing pain to travel down the nerve to the end or middle of its pathway. Nowhere is this more commonly demonstrated than in the arms and hands, and the culprit- your "pain in the neck".

Pain and other symptoms in the arm and shoulder are often due to injury of the neck. Since the neck is exceptionally flexible, it is susceptible to pressure on the nerves and joints which can refer to the shoulder and arm. The bones in the neck are separated by a disc's which act as a cushion between the bones. Neck, shoulder and arm pain may be caused by an abnormal bulging or protrusion of a disc onto a nerve or into the spinal cord itself. This is also known as a herniated or slipped disc.

Not all shoulder and neck pain is due to disc buldge. Sudden and severe pain can even result from lying too still for too long, on a pillow that is too thick or too thin, or in a position that keeps the neck in a awkward position. Whiplash injury or over-stretching the neck can also cause pain. As can shoulder,elbow or forearm conditions such as bursitis and tendonitis. Regardless where the pain is felt, an examination by a professional should be performed to determine the pain of your pain.

What Can I Do to Ease the Pain Temporarily?

  • Apply an ice pack(s) to the area to reduce inflammation and swelling. Use the ice pack(s) for periods of 20 minutes with a 40-minute interval between each application.
  • If you have deep, achy pain, apply moist heat to the back of the neck, arm or shoulders. Use the heat for 15 minutes with a 40 minute interval between each application. A word of caution: these are temporary remedies and not a substitute for seeking immediate professional evaluation and care.

What Can Be Done to Help?

Doctors of Chiropractic and Orthopedic surgeons are trained in the detection and care of problems related to the neck and shoulder regions. Your first visit should include a complete examination, including specific tests to both areas. X- rays may be ordered to screen for possible underlying problems in the neck and shoulder.

Treatment may vary from home excercises, medications, physical therapy, spinal manipulation, injections or surgical consultation.

What Can I Do to Prevent Arm and Shoulder Pain?

Your Physician cannot correct the pain in your arm and shoulder without your help. These steps can help:

  • Don't sleep on a stack of pillows, or even one pillow that ramps your head upward. By doing so you can put stress on the upper back and neck.
  • Don't read or watch television while lying down. This can contort the neck. Always sit upright.
  • Don't carry heavy purses or bags with a shoulder strap. The weight can pull on the neck and shoulder causing further pain.
  • When doing work that requires you to bend your neck downward or face the same direction for long periods take frequent breaks.
  • Be strict in following good postural habits when standing, sitting and walking.
  • Follow a regular schedule of appropriate exercises to help strengthen your back and neck. Ask your physician to recommend the best exercise program for you.

Remember, even though you may feel pain in your hand or shoulder, the problem might be elsewhere in the body. It is always wise to have a medical or chiropractic doctor look at your body to determine the root of the problem.