An injury that affects your shoulders, arms, wrists, or hands can interfere greatly with your daily routine. When the injury is obvious, such as a fractured wrist, treatment focuses on reducing your pain, healing the injury, and getting you moving again.
What do you do, though, when there is no obvious arm injury causing your discomfort? Experts like board-certified orthopedist and spine specialist Dr. Michael Hennessy focus on your neck.
Understanding the cervical spine
Your neck (cervical spine) contains seven vertebrae and other bony and soft tissue structures that move and support your head and provide protection for the nerves traveling through your spinal canal.
Injuries to the muscles, tendons, and bony tissue of the cervical spine can cause nerve dysfunction and pain that travel into the shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand. The clinical description for this nerve dysfunction/pain is radiculopathy, which is most often responsible for causing arm pain that’s related to the neck.
Five common causes of arm pain
There are several underlying conditions that can cause radiculopathy, which typically only affects one arm but can involve both. Symptoms can vary with each condition but may include sharp pain between the shoulder blades, numbness and tingling in the affected arm, and/or muscle weakness.
Five common issues that may lead to radiculopathy include:
Small, rubbery, round structures fit between the vertebrae in your spine and provide cushioning for the bones. Also called bulged, ruptured, or slipped discs, herniated discs can cause irritation and pain when the softer central portion bulges out and presses on surrounding nerves.
Degenerative disc disease
Often related to wear and tear of your spine as you age, degenerative disc disease causes the cushion-like discs between your vertebrae to shrink and harden. This can irritate and inflame nerves and may lead to problems like spinal stenosis and bone spurs.
The unexpected whipping motion that stresses nerves and strains your neck during a whiplash injury may occur during an automobile crash, sports injury, fall, or other accident.
A small bony growth called a spur can occur on the cervical spine. They’re normally associated with aging and are rounded rather than spiky. You may not have any symptoms with spurs, but they can sometimes irritate nerves and lead to tingling, numbness, and weakness radiating from the neck into the shoulder, arm, and hand.
Your spinal cord rests in a canal that’s formed by the vertebrae in your backbone. Narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal, which is most often associated with arthritis and aging, can compress and inflame the nerves surrounding the spinal cord. Depending on which nerves are affected, cervical spinal stenosis can cause pain, numbness, and tingling in your shoulders, arms, wrists, and hands.
If you’re struggling with arm pain that doesn’t seem to have a cause, schedule an appointment at Texas Spine Consultants. Call the office or book your visit online.