Severe pain radiating down upper arm to pointer finger and thumb

by Jane

Severe pain radiating down upper arm to lower arm with some tingling in pointer finger and thumb

I'm 54 have a scoliosis. I also have a vertebrae between my shoulder blades that is painful to touch. For the past few weeks I've been experiencing severe pain and burning in my shoulder running down the front of my upper arm, into my lower arm and the tingling is in the lower arm and thumb and pointer finger. I'm fine if I am sitting (slumping) in my recliner, but if I get up and do anything with that arm, like reach for something, its excruciating.

It does seem to get worse when I'm looking up or at what I'm reaching for. If I keep my head down close to my chest it is not as bad.

I've been going to a new chiropractor, but so far it hasn't helped. It is so painful to lay on my stomach on his adjustment table, as well as on my back. I haven't been able to lay on my back for more than an hour or so for years because it becomes very painful, but this pain is in my arm.

I'm kind of feeling at the end of my rope. I can't have an MRI because of staples from a surgery in 1978. I do think this is coming from my neck as I've had a mild form of it before, but it went away with adjustments. It also helps temporarily if I do neck traction at home. It's never been this bad, or lasted this long. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Hello Jane,
Does raising your arm, putting in on your head, sleeping with your hand under your head relieve the pain? Shoulder Abduction Relief sign ...

I'm afraid you have the classic symptoms of pinched C6 nerve root, and it's difficult no matter treatment you go for.

The signs are pain with looking up, and stretching out your arm.

I take it some X-rays have been taken. What do they show? Could you type in the report? Better still if you have the computer skills attach copies of the X-rays. Take photos with your camera, and then simply attach the file. Send to Contact if necessary.

A few suggestions:
1. Don't carry anything heavy with arm. Shopping, pots...

2. Try to avoid looking up, and especially turning right and looking up.

3. Lying face down on chiropractic table: put the naughty hand on the head rest, rather than hanging down.

4. Lying face up on chiropractic table: cushion under your head, perhaps two.

5. Daily home traction, I find the lying down kind usually the best. With a pillow under your head. Classically up to 7kg, depending on a number of factors, but you may be able to slowly increase on that. Talk to your chiro.

6. This I can't tell you as proven fact, but I find less treatment is better rather than more. Intensive, frequent manipulation may increase the pain. Occasional chiropractic adjustments, probably with your head turned to the left is often the best, but not always.

The big question is whether you have a slipped disc, or uncovertebral joint Luschka degeneration.

Be patient, give your chiro a good chance, at least another month. You may need to see a neurosurgeon.

I wish I could you miracle words of advice. I can't. It's a difficult condition at the best of times, made more difficult in your case by the scoliosis.

Send me X-rays, answer the questions and keep us abreast of your progress. Good luck and God bless.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He's doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost painfree. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily walk has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. Xrays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65 year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88 year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done.  

10. Mr X is a 71 year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a year ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he couldn't sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71 year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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