Your spine is the primary channel for your nervous system, which means a problem anywhere along its length can lead to pain that radiates out into your extremities. Called cervical radiculopathy, this problem occurs when a nerve in your neck is compromised, which can lead to symptoms that are both local and that extend into your arms and hands.
If you’re experiencing arm pain, our team here at Texas Spine Consultants, led by Dr. Michael Ware Hennessy, has the experience and tools you need to find relief. From expert diagnostics to state-of-the-art treatments, we understand better than most how to address cervical issues that lead to radiating pain.
Here’s a look at why you may be feeling pain in your arm and what we can do about it.
Your spine at a glance
Your spine is made up of 33 vertebrae, which are divided into the following five sections:
- Cervical spine — the seven vertebrae in your neck
- Thoracic spine — the 12 vertebrae in your mid back
- Lumbar spine — the five vertebrae in your lower back
- Scarum — five fused vertebrae
- Coccyx — four fused vertebrae
Separating the 24 vertebrae that move (your sacrum and coccyx don’t enjoy movement) are 23 intervertebral discs, which provide cushioning and support along the articulating portions of your spine. To provide the necessary cushioning between your vertebrae, each of your discs features a tough outer layer that houses a jelly-like substance on the inside.
Understanding cervical radiculopathy
The seven small vertebrae that make up your cervical spine, or neck, are incredibly hard-working, providing your head with support and a wide range of motion. Over time, the discs in your neck can succumb to wear and tear, primarily in the form of degenerative disc disease, which can weaken the disc, causing it to slowly compress.
In fact, degenerative changes in intervertebral discs occur in almost 50% of middle-aged adults in the United States, though many feel no symptoms at all.
For those who are symptomatic, this usually develops when the tough outer layer of the disc ruptures or bulges out of its normal space, irritating the highly sensitive nerve roots that branch out of your spine.
When this occurs in one of the discs in your neck, the end result may be localized pain, as well as pain and other symptoms that radiate down through your shoulder, arm, and hand.
While pain is one of the more noticeable symptoms, you may feel numbness or tingling in your arm or hands, or you might experience muscle weakness in your limb. Many patients report a sensation of pins and needles in their hands as well.
Treating cervical radiculopathy to end arm pain
If you’re experiencing discomfort in your arm, the first step is to have us fully evaluate the problem. After a review of your symptoms and your medical history, we turn to advanced imaging to get a closer look at what’s going on inside your neck.
If we find that degenerative changes are to blame, there are several approaches we can take, depending upon the extent of the problem, which include:
- Pain management
- Physical therapy
- Nerve blocks
- Massage therapy
If the changes are moderate to severe and your symptoms are causing serious quality-of-life issues, we may recommend an innovative solution in which we replace your damaged disc with an artificial one. Called the Mobi-C® artificial cervical disc, the replacement is designed to twist and slide left-to-right and front-to-back, allowing you to regain pain-free movement in your neck.
If you’d like to explore your treatment options for arm pain further, please contact our offices in Addison or Plano, Texas, to set up an appointment.