If you have ever experienced pain in your shoulder, elbow, or wrist, you probably thought that these symptoms were being caused by a condition directly related to those body parts. What you may not realize, is that pain in your arm, could actually be coming from a pathology originating at your neck.
A condition known as cervical radiculopathy can actually mimic signs and symptoms that occur in common upper extremity syndromes such as tennis elbow, tendinitis, and bursitis. Cervical radiculopathy is caused when the nerves that exit your neck become compressed. People commonly refer to this condition as a “pinched nerve.” These nerves that exit your neck, travel into your arm all the way to your fingertips. When these nerves become compressed, it can result in symptoms anywhere along the course of the nerve. Symptoms of cervical radiculopathy include pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness throughout the arm or hand. The nerve compression that occurs during cervical radiculopathy can be caused by pressure from a herniated disc, degenerative changes of the bones in the spine, traumatic injury, or a narrowing of the spinal canal.
Diagnosing cervical radiculopathy can be accomplished by an experienced physical therapist with enough insight to screen out the neck as a source of your arm symptoms. More sophisticated tests such as MRI or EMG/NCV can also be ordered by your physician to help rule in this diagnosis. Treatment aimed only at the upper extremity will be unsuccessful at fully resolving the symptoms if the condition is coming from the neck, so accurate diagnosis is key. Once confirmed, treatment may include mechanical traction, manual therapy, stretching exercises, postural training, electric stimulation, ice or heat.
If you, a family member, or a friend are suffering from pain anywhere throughout the arm, make sure to have your healthcare practitioner evaluate the cervical spine as a source of your symptoms. Or that pain in your arm, could become a real pain in the neck!!!
For more information on cervical radiculopathy and how Physical Solutions can help diagnose or treat your condition, call us and speak to one of our physical therapists. All of our therapists are Board Certified Specialists in Orthopedics and are well experienced in managing your condition.