Keywords; shoulder abduction relief.
What does the word mean? Simply lifting your arm up at the side of your body. Raising the limb, and placing your hand on your head takes the stretch off the nerves running from your neck to your upper extremity. There are five of them, called the brachial plexus.
If you have a pinched nerve, then this will relieve the pain in your arm.
If placing your hand on your head increases the pain in the arm, then you probably have a shoulder anatomy problem problem, a rotator cuff for example, or another condition where the nerve and artery can be affected in the inter scalene triangle.
Aggravate vs Relieve helps in the diagnosis of a slipped disc in the neck.
More usually, shoulder abduction will aggravate the pain in your arm and shoulder. Then it's not a pinched nerve. It more likely to be strained rotator cuff, or a fixated acromioclavicular joint or a frozen shoulder brewing.
The pain from a pinched nerve in the neck may be very severe, a deep numb ache in the arm, often worse at night. The only position to gain relief may be to place your hand on your head, or sleep with your arm under your pillow or skull.
This is a serious problem. It's best to get to your chiropractor as soon as possible.
Some grasp of the anatomy of neck pain will help your understanding of this nasty condition. The nerve can also be irritated by a first rib subluxation, a slipped disk, arthritis in the cervical spine, and others like a cervical facet syndrome.
Mostly chiropractic is the treatment of choice, though I confess neck pain can be stubborn, particularly in the presence of an aching arm and a positive shoulder abduction relief sign.
This is especially true if there's also wear and tear, and an old fracture or arthritis of the joints of Luschka.
Also known as the paravertebral or uncovertebral joints, they may compromise the inter vertebral foramen through which the nerve root must escape from the spine on it's way to the neck, arm and upper back.
However, these degenerative changes in the neck have usually been present for years. Why do they now suddenly rear their ugly heads? Herein actually lies our salvation. If they were there before the pain started, then they probably aren't the cause of the pain. What's known as an incidental finding. Which explains why many patients with advanced degerative changes in the neck often respond just as well, or badly, to chiropractic treatment, as those without.
Traction may also help as an adjunctive treatment, though the research indicates that on its own traction is not effective.
Again, raising your arm will INCREASE the pain and tingling in your arm. The condition is called a THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME ...
The confirmation of a true pinched nerve is done in part with a test called the Upper Limb Tension Test that you can do at home. However, be warned, the diagnosis and interpretation of tests can only be done by a skilled clinician; your chiropractor.
Having said that, a true slipped disk in the neck sometimes requires surgical intervention. But in our admittedly biased opinion, always try conservative treatment first.
CERVICAL COMPRESSION TEST
The Cervical Compression Test is another test used to confirm the SAR PINCHED NERVE sign: is this truly a pinched nerve? Watch this
spectacular way of performing this test. Don't miss it ... and watch to
the end. You won't be sorry, I promise! CERVICAL COMPRESSION TEST ...
Upper back pain
Pain between the shoulders and in the upper back can be very difficult to diagnose. It could be a local problem, say a subluxation of the fourth thoracic vertebra. Or, it could be a rib head subluxation. Does deep breathing cause pain?
On the scary side it could be a metastasis from lung or breast cancer; fortunately both rare, but if you've had a mastectomy or are a smoker, then it does need to be kept in mind.
Then it could simply be a muscular problem, perhaps from sitting too long at a computer that is not properly set up. Is your mouse arm supported? Do your fingers point up or down? How are your eyes in relation to the screen?
Are you using a laptop when you could be using a pc, or at least a portable with a full screen and separate keyboard and mouse?
But then it could also be a referred pain from the neck. If the C5 nerve root is affected then deep upper back ache is often the result, mediated via the dorsal scapular n, with tingling and discomfort on the outer upper arm. And you may well get shoulder abduction relief.
The long and the short of it is that a careful and thorough history and chiropractic examination is in order when dealing with lower neck, upper back and arm pain.
They can be excruciatingly painful and frustratingly there is often no known cause. You wake up one morning and everything is rosy. You stretch lazily, and bingo, you have severe neck pain. Within a few days or weeks the ache begins to radiate to the upper back, sometimes the chest depending on the nerve root involved, and arm. And, you get relief by placing your hand on your head.
Links from the top of the page
More interesting questions from readers