As Chiropractors, Osteopaths and sports therapists, the ProBack team are responsible for more than just back pain but for the mechanical components of the whole body; how they align and interact is key to understanding how any pain evolves including pain in the arms.
We see many patients whose arm pain is a direct result of nerve compression within the upper back or neck; similar to the well-known entrapment in the lower back known as sciatica, neck radiculopathy (trapped nerves) most commonly involve shooting pain down the arm often extending into the wrist and fingers, however sometimes the pain occurs just in the elbow or wrist without additional symptoms.
Pain in the left arm
Quite rightly, pain in the left arm is a cause for concern, whilst there are a multitude of simple biomechanical explanations for pain in the left arm, it is also the referral pattern for heart, therefore angina and heart attacks must be ruled out. Heart Pain tends to be sudden onset but ranges from mild to severe, it has a specific pattern involving the upper left chest, anterior shoulder, then down the inner bicep and into the little finger. It is often accompanied by other symptoms such as being short of breath, sweating or nausea. If in doubt, then it is advised to contact emergency services.
Pain in the right arm
Unlike the left arm, when pain is felt in the right arm its far less of a concern as the heart does not refer to this side. Pain in the right arm therefore is far less sinister and can be from a multitude of biomechanical injuries as described below.
Causes of Arm Pain (either side)
Alternative causes for pain in the arm or wrist can be brought on by many different things, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Often specific injuries can be related from a certain individual action or a direct injury with an obvious cause such as a work or sports injury.
Yet there may be a more complicated problems related to a bio-mechanical issues as a result of stresses and strains on the system, it is impossible to underestimate the role of the neck and the nerves supplying the arm in this scenario; as they coordinate the firing or movement patterns or the arm an irritation at the top of the neck can lead to a muscular instability and eventual injury further down the extremity.
To find out an exact diagnosis; a full examination and sometimes x-rays will be needed. Here are just some of the possible locations or causes of pain in the arms:
• Epicondylitis: Repetitive strain injuries including golfers/tennis elbow,
• Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: pain in the wrist and hand
• Muscle strains or sprains: i.e. bicep strain/tendinopathy
• Bursitis (various locations)
• Rotator cuff injuries (shoulder)
• Arthritis: (various locations)
• Clavicle or Scapular dysfunction and referral
Symptoms of an Arm Injury
If you have an injury in the arm, you might experience:
Pain that varies in intensity
Pain on repeated movements (joint/muscle)
Sensations such as pins and needles, weakness or tingling. (nerve)
Aching in the upper arm
Aching in the wrist or forearm
Treatments for Arm Pain
Once the root cause of the arm pain has been found, the best course of treatment and length of treatment can be planned.
As with most aches and pains often it is a combination of our unique therapies (in the UK) that ProBack practitioners can rely on to unlock even the most complicated issues.
For localised tissue injury in muscle strains or sprains, or inflammation from arthritis Laser Therapy may be the best treatment option. The K-Laser uses light energy to target an area at a deep, cellular level. The energy improves a cell’s ability to heal and regenerate without tissue damage or side effects. This process can also help in the development of blood vessels (neovascularisation) in the area, which increases blood flow and improves the body’s ability to heal.
For muscle pain, spasms, or arm pain referred from a neck condition, Shockwave Therapy might be the most suitable treatment. Shockwave uses a light tapping motion (percussion) to help stimulate blood flow and break down scar tissue in the injured area and rebalance the joint and muscle dysfunction underlying the injury.
If the root cause of arm pain is a disc or nerve problem in the neck, Spinal Decompression is likely to be most effective. Spinal decompression provides gentle traction to the spine in a rhythmic cycle, in order to pump fluid and nutrients slowly back into the disc space. The desired result is a reduction of spinal disc pressure which creates an ideal environment for continued healing even after the treatment time has ended. Spinal decompression can be utilised for disc problems in the neck and low back.