Your neck is located in the centre and is connected to shoulders and arms on both sides. The neck continues down the back, through which the spinal cord passes and related structures are arranged around it. Arm pain can be due to many causes in the arm itself, but most of the times, arm pain may be related to neck pain or disorders of the neck.
The neck region or cervical spine area, further continues down as thoracic and lumbar spine in the back region. As the arms are mainly connected to the cervical spine certain conditions that affect the neck or cervical spine can also affect the arms.
Neck and Arm Pain
Neck pain often tends to spread to shoulders and arms. Sometimes, neck pain may be obvious and associated arm pain can be explained. But sometimes arm pain may be there with no symptoms of neck pain. The character of arm pain should be studied carefully.
- The nature of arm pain can be dull aching pain that increases gradually, with movements of arm, lifting of weights or other trigger factors.
- Arm pain can also be felt as sharp, shooting type of pain, which may appear as sudden shock like pain.
- Arm pain may be experienced with neck movements, during travelling, sports or jerking of the neck.
- Neck and arm pain may be short-term, long lasting or may be recurrent. Pain which lasts long can be debilitating and cause hindrance in daily activities.
- Arm pain may be associated with burning sensation, numbness or tingling in the arms, hands and fingers.
- Occasionally, change in sensation, difficulty in co-ordination or weakness may also be experienced.
Neck and Arm Pain: Can your Arm Pain be Related to Neck Pain?
Yes, there is every possibility that your arm pain could be related to neck pain. There are quite a few medical conditions related to neck or the cervical spine that can cause radiating pain to the arms.
Here are some conditions that can cause arm pain due to neck disorders and can be related to neck pain.
Arm Pain Caused due to Poor Posture of the Neck
Abnormal posture and body movements while sitting, sleeping, bending, stretching overhead and lifting objects can affect the neck muscles and arms, causing pain.
Cervical Radiculopathy as a Cause for Arm Pain that is Related to Neck Pain
Nerves and their branches come out of the cervical spine in the neck region. If these nerves get pinched or compressed in their course, they can give rise to nerve related symptoms to the area supplied by them. Nerve symptoms generally include pain, burning sensation, numbness, tingling or feeling as if pins and needles were poked, changes in sensation and weakness.
When nerves in the neck region get pinched, the pain can radiate to shoulders, arms and hands.
Cervical Disc Problems as a Cause for Arm Pain
Cervical disc can get affected causing disc bulge, herniation or disc prolapse. A disc may bulge or herniate due to wear and tear and is commonly seen after middle ages. Disc can also get injured due to falls, adventure sports, direct blow or accidents. A disc can herniate while lifting heavy weights, during pulling, sudden bending or twisting movements of the back, particularly in persons with weak muscles.
Degenerative Disorders of the Cervical Spine Causing Arm Pain
Degeneration of spine and disc occurs as a normal part of aging. The discs may begin to lose their moisture, become dry and stiff, the height between the vertebra decreases and causes the discs to bulge out.
Bone spurs can occur due to degenerative changes, which can cause compression of the nerves and resulting neck pain. Such pain too can radiate to the arms and fingers, along with other symptoms of cervical radiculopathy.
Strained Neck Muscles Can Cause Arm Pain
Neck Muscles can get strained from over work, stretching beyond the normal range of motion or other conditions. Strained neck muscles can cause pain and muscle spasms can cause severe pain in the neck.
Muscles perform the function of supporting the spine and any risk to the spine may result in guarding by muscles, making them stiff. Muscles extending to the arms can be painful and sore. Nerves too can get trapped or compressed causing pain, numbness and burning in the arms.
Soft Tissue Damage
Strained ligaments, tendons of the neck and shoulders can cause pain around the arms. Ligaments can get overstrained due to repetitive stress or injured during sports, accidents or heavy work.
Injuries to the Cervical Disc can Cause Arm Pain
Injury to the cervical disc, muscles of the neck, back or strained tissues can cause arm pain. Whiplash injury during vehicular accidents, too can cause neck pain, which can radiate to the arms, hands and jaws.
Other Conditions that can Cause Arm Pain Which is Related to Neck Pain
Other conditions affecting the neck and the region between the neck and the shoulders can contribute to neck and arm pain. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tennis Elbow or other musculoskeletal conditions can cause neck and arm pain. Other conditions like thoracic outlet syndrome, tumors or certain infections affecting the base of brain and neck can cause arm pain.
Neck and arm pain can be treated with rest, cold or heat packs, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants, physical therapy and muscle strengthening exercises.