Those having pain along the length of the shoulder and arm often wonder: “What’s causing this pain radiating down my arm?” This complaint can cause severe discomfort in the shoulder, upper and lower arm and the hand and fingers. This article will discuss pain of the upper extremity, it’s possible causes and safe conservative treatment options.
Anyone experiencing discomfort of the shoulder and arm should question if a heart problem exists. This should be ruled out by the proper health specialist at a primary or emergency, urgent care setting.
Barring a cardiac event, the most common cause of pain in the upper extremity is from nerve irritation or a “pinched nerve” in the neck. Typically, this problem presents as an ache in the shoulder that travels downward into the upper and lower arm and the person can possibly develop numbness and tingling in the hand and the fingers. The symptoms can range from a mild, annoying discomfort to an excruciating, all consuming, intense agony.
Sometimes, a person will have a traumatic event that generates the problem. At other times, there seems to be no apparent reason for cause of the discomfort.
Mechanical misalignment of the spinal bones of the neck, called the cervical vertebrae, can pinch and irritate nerves that travel from the neck to the upper extremity. Many times, a cervical disc which is a specialized type of cartilage that forms a type of cushion between vertebrae can bulge, protrude or herniate, and create nerve pressure. This nerve pressure causes pain to radiate into the arm. When pain travels or radiates from one area to another it is called “radiculopathy.”
Chiropractors are the preeminent healthcare practitioners able to help with conservative, nonpharmacologic, non-surgical treatment of radiculopathy. Chiropractors can perform chiropractic adjustments to realign cervical vertebrae and reduce cervical disc compression of the nerves traveling into the arm safely and gently.
A 2013 research study followed 50 patients suffering from arm pain due to herniated cervical discs. After two weeks of chiropractic care 55% were “better” or “much better.” By three months that percentage improved to 86%.
As a practicing chiropractor of 37 years, I have seen many cases of upper extremity radiculopathy that responds well with chiropractic care. I inform my patients that they can certainly explore medical approaches involving medications and surgery. However, my experience has shown that most of these terribly uncomfortable conditions will respond to conservative chiropractic care. Most patients agree to try this approach first and leave surgery only, to non-responders.
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