Arm pain is often the result of injury to a nerve, damage to the cervical (neck) portion of the spine, or muscle strain. Thousands of people in America suffer from chronic arm pain. If you have chronic right or upper left arm pain, you should have it evaluated by a pain management specialist who understands spine conditions.
Joint inflammation and injuries can lead to nerve compression and trauma. A person with arm pain often experiences itching, numbness, soreness, and discomfort of the arm structures. Arm pain is often related to an injury, or occurs from overuse from everyday activities, such as writing, working with tools, playing sports, lifting, and typing.
How common is chronic arm pain?
Chronic pain is a major health problem in the United States. According to a recent study by the Institute of Medicine, 1/3 of all adults suffer from some type of chronic pain. This is more people than those affected by heart disease, cancer, and diabetes combined.
What are the causes of upper arm pain?
Many conditions contribute to upper arm pain. Degenerative spine disease can lead to nerve compression, which causes painful nerve signals to branch down the nerves and into the arms. Degenerative spinal conditions include:
● Degenerative disc disease – This causes tearing of the intervertebral discs, which leads to nerve root compression.
● Herniated disc – With a herniated cervical disc, nerve impingement occurs, which also leads to further pain.
● Bulging disc – With discs out of alignment, the nerves that supply the arms are irritated.
● Bursitis – These small, fluid-filled sacs in the shoulder joints often become inflamed, which can lead to pain.
● Tendinitis – The tendons that connect muscle to bone can become inflamed and irritated.
● Tendon tearing – Acute injury or degenerative changes to tendons from advanced age or overuse will lead to arm pain.
● Shoulder instability – The upper arm bone is forced out of the shoulder socket, which leads to shoulder pain.
● Shoulder arthritis – Work injuries, chronic wear-and-tear, and stiffening can cause serious persistent arm pain.
● Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – Pain of an extremity is often related to nerve damage. This can cause pain and skin changes.
● Spinal stenosis – When bone spurs cause narrowing of the spinal column, this leads to pressure on spinal nerves as they exit the spinal cord.
What are the symptoms associated with cervical nerve compression?
When pinched cervical nerves occur, the symptoms often include:
● Neck pain, arm pain, and shoulder pain.
● A tingling or “pins and needles” sensation.
● Arm weakness
● Burning sensations of the arm.
What are the treatment options for neck and arm pain?
Treatments for neck and arm pain include:
● Epidural steroid injections – This involves instilling a corticosteroid into the epidural space, which surrounds the spinal cord. This decreases nerve root inflammation and relieves pain.
● Nerve block – This involves injecting an anesthetic or neurolytic agent onto a targeted nerve to reduce pain signal transmission to the brain. This minimally invasive procedure is done using a local anesthetic on outpatient basis.
● Physical therapy – Exercises and strengthening can alleviate neck and arm pain by improving muscle function.