When Your Arm Pain Is a Pain in the Neck

Do you experience pain when you raise your arm, but the pain decreases when the arm is raised above your head? Many times, the initial discomfort results from nerves in the neck being pinched because the shoulder blade is not positioned correctly. Raising your arm above your head takes the stretch off the nerve and provides relief, but carrying something like a bag of groceries increases the stretch on the nerve, thus escalating the pain. When these nerves become pinched (cervical radiculopathy), either due to swelling, a slipped disc or degenerative changes in the spinal column, pain can radiate down one or both arms. It is quite common for a pinched nerve to produce a tingling sensation or numbness in the arm, and if the situation is more severe, it can result in spasms or significant muscle weakness in the affected arm.

Several factors can contribute to this, including poor posture, the type of job you perform (especially those that require a great deal of overhead work), hobbies and general physical health. The good news is that a pinched nerve can be treated with various modalities:

  • Icing for 20 minutes several times a day will help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Your physician may recommend using a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • For more severe pain, your physician may prescribe a corticosteroid injection near the nerve in question.
  • Gentle stretching exercises often will relieve pressure on the affected nerve.
  • Massage, ultrasound therapy and electrical stimulation are some of the modalities used to treat pinched nerves and, subsequently, relieve arm pain.

To strengthen your shoulder and arm, and relieve your pain, we can design an exercise program and provide you with instruction on proper body alignment, safe lifting techniques and ways to modify your daily activities to avoid pain. Our goal will be to help reduce the painful pressure on a pinched nerve.

The Jackson Clinics has an Upper Extremity Athlete Fellowship Program which is one of only three in the country! Our graduates of this elite program are among the best educated shoulder and elbow physical therapists in the region.

Did you know you have Direct Access* to Physical Therapy? No referral, no problem!

*Some restrictions apply.