What a Pain in the Neck!

Just because you don’t have neck pain, it doesn’t mean that the pain going down your arm does not originate from your neck. This is something that should always be screened with physical therapist, but let’s talk about what you can do at home to best help the symptoms with your shoulder, arm, elbow or hand. This also, of course, does not mean that it is coming from one of those areas, but the neck must be ruled out, especially when you have been working with a specific area and not getting any relief.

The first and easiest way for you to rule out anything, would be to move your neck around and see if it changes the pain down your arm at all. It may either reproduce it and make it worse or take it away. Be sure to check all directions, look up, down, left and right, as well as tilting to each side. You may have to move in and out of the position 10 times or hold for 30 seconds to get any reproduction or relief of symptoms. If you get a positive result from what you do and it relieves any of your symptoms, continue to do this. The reverse is also true, but either way, now you have something you can address. So why is the problem in the neck, but the pain is somewhere else?

Nerve Entrapment
When the nerves become entrapped, it is usually one of two places. The first is in the lower cervical spine, as this is where all of the nerves are that go down into the arm. The other place is between the collarbone and first rib. As all of the nerves exit the spine they travel here first before going down further. Compression at either of these joints can leave you in a world of hurt.

Joint and Disc Referral
These are more likely to be present as neck pain but can also be out more towards the shoulder blade as well, making it easier to determine what needs to be done next.

Trigger Points
The main, larger muscles of the neck can all have referral patterns outside of the neck. The good news is that there is relief. It is hard to get into too many treatment specifics, but let’s review a few of the things that generally most people would benefit from. Things such as stretches, strengthening exercises, manual therapy techniques, McKenzie spine techniques, cervical traction and postural education should reduce your symptoms and get you back on track.

If you are having pain, it is important to know where it is coming from–and a physical therapist can do just that!