The role your spine plays as the foundational structure of your entire musculoskeletal system is fairly obvious, but its other role as the primary conduit for your central nervous system only becomes clear when there’s a problem. A good example of this is pain or other symptoms in your arm, despite a lack of injury. When this happens, the odds are high that the underlying problem lies in your cervical spine.
Called cervical radiculopathy, the team here at Texas Spine Consultants, including Michael Hennessy, MD, Robert Viere, MD, Andrew Park, MD, Chester Donnally, MD, and Heidi Lee, MD, thought we’d take this opportunity to discuss this fairly common condition and the steps we can take to help you find relief from your arm pain.
Your spine and your nervous system
To better understand the relationship between your spine and symptoms like pain in your arms, it’s beneficial to dive a little deeper into the anatomy of your nervous system.
Your central nervous system is composed of your brain and your spinal cord, which is protected by your spine. There are 31 pairs of spinal roots and nerves that branch out from your spine (to the left and to the right), which form the basis of your peripheral nervous system.
Of the 31 pairs of spinal nerves along your spine, eight are found in your cervical spine, which are the top seven vertebrae along your spinal column. These eight pairs of nerve roots exit between each of your vertebrae and many travel through your shoulders, arms, and hands.
Your cervical spine and your arm
If there’s an issue in your cervical spine that compresses one of the eight pairs of spinal nerves and roots, it can lead to cervical radiculopathy, which is the name we use to describe symptoms that radiate down into your shoulders, arms, and hands.
In most cases, cervical radiculopathy is caused by degenerative changes in your neck due to wear-and-tear, such as cervical stenosis, degenerative disc disease, and arthritis.
Since your cervical spine enjoys a wide range of motion, the components can wear down more quickly and bone spurs can develop. As well, age plays a role as your discs lose moisture and become more brittle, which causes them to collapse and leaves them more prone to rupturing.
Whether you have a bone spur that’s irritating a nerve root or one of your cervical discs has ruptured, the result can lead to:
- Local pain in your neck
- Pain that radiates down into your shoulder, arm, and/or hand
- Tingling and numbness in your hands
- Muscle weakness in your shoulders, arms, and hands
The pain associated with a problem in your cervical spine is often a sharp, burning sensation that increases with certain movements.
Finding relief from your arm pain
If you’re experiencing arm pain for no obvious reason, it’s important that you come see us so that we can identify the problem. If we find that it stems from nerve compression in your cervical spine, we can take the appropriate steps to help you find relief, such as:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications
- Nerve blocks
- Steroid injections
- Physical therapy
The good news is that the solution for this condition isn’t commonly surgical. In most cases, a good regimen of pain management, rest, and physical therapy should resolve the issue.
If you’re experiencing arm pain and you want relief, contact one of our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.