Neck Arm pain

I present here three letters received at the chiropractic help desk that will outline the gravity and seriousness of an ache and tingling radiating down the upper extremity from the cervical spine. They may help you to understand that you are not all alone.

Here is the first letter.

Hello, I am a 26 year old male who has been experiencing pain and a numb feeling in the area where my neck and shoulder meet.

Along with tingling in the arms and hands, my wrist and fingers it is very uncomfortable. This has been going on for over a year now.

I did data-entry at my job for 5 years and that is where I first started experiencing discomfort in my hands, though most of my issues are on the right side. I have had 2 EMGs eight months apart, two MRIs; one of the neck and the other of the brain.

An x-ray of the neck, and cortisone injections in my wrists were ordered too. The tests have all come back fine and I have seen many different doctors who cannot seem to pinpoint an issue or come up with a diagnosis.

The symptoms used to be only lower arm pain; in my hands and wrists so they thought it was CTS, but over time my symptoms have changed and worsened. I now experience tingling in all of my fingers.

My arms feel easily fatigued.

I feel it is difficult to sit up straight, I cannot sleep on my side anymore because of my arm; from the pit all around, and neck feel pain and a tingling sensation, where it feels like I need to move to relieve it but no matter what way I move the arm it does not feel right.

I am only able to sleep on my back, though sometimes when I do (and I am unsure if this is related) from the top of my rear down to my toes I feel an uncomfortable numbness, but it does not happen all the time.

I have been unable to keep my job or enjoy my hobbies such as playing guitar, because any bit of work or activity I do seems to make them worse. Particularly the spot on my wrist and an area in my neck.

Up until these problems I lead an active healthy lifestyle and exercised every other day by doing push-ups and lifting ten to thirty pound dumbbells, so I have always had good body strength. However, I am been unable to do this workout routine now.

Here is the second letter.

Three months ago I fell down some steps at work from a height of about one metre; I instinctively stuck my left arm out behind me. I came down fairly hard on my hand.

This resulted in an intense burning sensation in the upper part of my arm lasting 10 minutes or thereabout.

The incident was reported and I was checked by the site-safety officer and after 30 minutes all seemed okay and I returned to work.

Two months later I started getting pain in the left arm like a dull ache in the upper part; I went to my GP and he said it was probably just soft tissue damage, to give it a few days and see how it goes.

After a week it had progressed to numbness and pins and needles sensation down the forearm across the hand and thumb and first 2 fingers and the dull ache in the upper arm which became fairly constant.

I also now have a constant twinge in my back in between my shoulder blades and the neck where it meets the shoulders.

I have had x-rays of the cervical spine done but they were inconclusive.

What is it that I have most likely done to end up with these symptoms? I know the initial burning sensation I experienced was most probably related to stress on some nerves.


Letter 3

I have pins and needles starting in my finger tips and travelling up to my elbow. I cannot carry anything in my right hand without pins and needles beginning.

Neck Arm pain

Neck arm pain and shoulder symptoms call for a cervical spine examination as well as the heart; magnesium in spinach may benefit.

I would say that the most challenging conditions at the Chiropractic Coalface concern neck shoulder arm pain. From the patient's point of view these conditions can be very disabling and to make matters worse they often seriously disturb sleep. Unlike a sciatica, you can't find a position to relieve the pain in the arm.

Obviously lower arm pain, for example, could be a local problem like arthritis in the fingers or if you fell an injury like a sprained wrist. Or the severe pain I'm suffering from after contact with a nasty rhus tree that gave me a very painful rash two months ago and the nerve pain is now waking me at night. I doubt an adjustment of the neck would help!

However, the stubborn carpal tunnel syndromes, the tennis elbows, the frozen shoulders and rotator cuff syndromes that haven't responded to medicine and physiotherapy's best efforts, I find almost always have one of two underlying causes:

Chiropractic help

Chiropractic help is a site dedicated to helping you understand your neck arm pain better; a correct diagnosis is paramount.

The Upper limb tension test is the gold standard test for a pinched nerve in the neck.

  • A First Rib (aka Thoracic Outlet syndrome ) affecting both the brachial plexus of nerves and often the artery supplying the arm too. A double wammy of nerve irritation and insufficient blood to the arm. The key sign is a very weak, tired arm when it is raised and used above the shoulders - as in hanging the washing. 
The inter scalene triangle is where much of the arm pain stems from in the thoracic outlet syndrome.

The "inter scalene triangle" is bounded by three structures:

  • Anterior scalene muscle
  • Medial scalene muscle
  • First rib
Five nerves and an artery pass through the inter scalene triangle.


ARM PAIN Case Histories

I present here two challenging cases. Two cases, one with pain in her upper arm of some two years duration. Surgery did not help, and eventually the nerve bundles to her shoulder became so badly irritated she got a frozen shoulder from her neck arm pain. In a case of left arm shoulder pain of acute onset, an impending heart attack should of course also be considered. Nausea? Sweating? Extreme anxiety?In the second case, a 6 month pain in arm, was a very stubborn case of tennis elbow. And standing behind it, a twenty year history of neck pain. Both cases have been a challenge, both are doing very nicely, but... get that neck sorted out before it starts giving you a nasty neck arm pain. That nerve pain in the arm is far worse than the pain in the neck. CARPAL TUNNEL Case File ...


When all else fails in the management of neck arm pain, think exercises, think omega-3 oil and think traction. There is no scientific evidence that traction ON ITS OWN has any benefit with pain upper arm or lower arm pain ... but combined with chiropractic care I can offer you anecdotal evidence that it does contribute. Perhaps you'd like to make a home traction unit like this innovative patient did. We couldn't find a decent traction unit in Holland. It made a big difference to a stubborn two-year upper arm muscle pain. In fact in the end, he found that the traction helped more than my treatment! or that of various doctors over the previous two years. HOME TRACTION UNIT ...

Carpal Tunnel EXERCISES

One of the frustrations of neck arm pain is that the patient feels helpless. There appears to be nothing they can do to help themselves. Well there is. Provided the pain and tingling in arms and hands excludes the pinkie these Carpal Tunnel exercises MIGHT help, and certainly won't make it worse. Do them lying down if you have shoulder pain.

Arm pit pain

"The radiographer angled the screen towards me so that I could see the corolla of dark tumours spiralling through my breast."

My cancer heartbreak

If you have pain in the arm pit that you cannot provoke by turning your neck, or raising your arm, then I would see your medical doctor first. Just to be sure because it might not be the neck and arm pain we have been discussing.

The Subscapularis, Teres Major and Latissimus dorsi muscles are the usual causes of arm pit pain, but nasty swollen lymph nodes lurk there very occasionally. Every woman, in particular, should be looking to replace some of the animal protein - eggs, cheese, meat - in her diet with vegetable protein such as tofu and hummus, green beans and lentils.

Research in the Netherlands, where one in eight women will get a breast malignancy the highest in the world, suggests that too much animal protein is the chief cause, along with post-menopausal hormone replacement therapy.

Ribs pertain normally to the thoracic spine, in the mid-back, but occasionally a very large one in the lower neck may interfere with the artery and nerves supplying the upper limb, causing a mystifying array of cervical and arm pain signs and symptoms for the clinician.

The cervical rib casefile below may help you grasp the significance of this large cervical appendage. 

Small ribs are not uncommon and probably have little significance.

If you have no interest in the problems and questions that others have regarding neck arm pain, then just scroll quickly down past several letters. 


It's the responsibility of all who are treating the patient with neck arm pain to help the patient make the right choices and decisions ... it's not the time for partisan politicking.

If the patient is not responding well to Chiropractic help, then it's time for a second (medical) opinion, or even the opinion of another chiropractor.

If the patient suffering from pain and tingling in the arms and hands is not responding well to anti inflammatory drugs  then it's time for the medical doctor to consider whether a course of chiropractic adjustments may not be in the patient's interests.

Often there's an arthritic component. Are there degenerative, inflammatory changes within the joints of Luschka? Would a course of fish oil and some of the findings from flax seed nutrition information to be considered. Omega-3 is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

Hard choices have to be made sometimes.

Contact me directly right here.

I receive many questions at Chiropractic Help. It might be help for a spinal condition, but it could also be about a failed Carpal Tunnel operation, or some such thing.

I will do that by answering your questions personally, but it will be converted to a Web Page so others can benefit from your questions. Omit your surname if you like.

However, do understand that, in the main, I'm going to be directing you (should it be pertinent) to a Chiropractor in your neck of the woods. I'll respond to all reasonable inquiries, but please be specific, and give some details: which fingers, what increases the pain, and relieves it, injuries, do x-rays show anything, does placing your arm on your head relieve or increase tingling in the arm... without these sort of details, I'm unable to give a sensible answer.

There is no charge for this service, however if you find my answer useful, you might like to consider purchasing my latest book, Stones in my Clog. Gems, both funny and healthful, from the life and work of a Chiropractor. It's only $2.99. Use the site search function.

Pose Me A Question! Pretty please, in decent grammar and spelling.

I will never give or sell your e-mail address to anyone.

PS. If you find my answer instructive, would you please ask a friend to rate the page. Many thanks.

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"If you have only one smile in you, give it to the people you love. Don't be surly at home, then go out in the street and start grinning 'Good morning' at total strangers."

Maya Angelou's mother.

From the garden

Plant an avocado tree if you have the space in the garden.

Healthy fats come mainly from three sources: avocado, olive and fatty fish. Of course, nuts and seeds too, especially omega-3 rich flax.

And omega-3 is vital if you suffer from joint pain, in general, more specifically from neck and arm pain.

A miniature avocado tree will be such a blessing if you have the space. Not only is the fat rich in momo-unsaturated fatty acids, the good stuff, zero cholesterol, but it contains all the beta-sitosterol a man needs to prevent nasty benign prostate enlargement.

Nerves are coated in fat (called a myelin sheath) which is vital for conduction of nervous impulses.

Diseases such a Multiple Sclerosis attack this fatty sheath, and a very low fat diet, or eating the bad ones, is strongly implicated in these very serious autoimmune diseases. You would likely have tingling in the arms and hands in the absence of neck pain? What are phytosterols?


Tofu is the main source of protein in the East. It's an (unexciting) but extremely valuable source of vegetable protein, derived from the soya bean. But unlike soya bean burgers that I personally find detestable, tofu is perfectly palatable if you dickey it up with chillies, ginger and garlic. It's also a very cheap source of protein, try and eat Tofu nutrition at least once a week.

Tofu nutrition has zero cholesterol and some of the phytosterols that help prevent neck pain and breast conditions.


Hummus is a traditional Mediterranean dish made from chickpeas. Also known as Garbanzo Beans, chickpeas are the world's favourite legume. Hummus is quite expensive to buy, and often laden with chemicals such as preservatives, flavour enhancers... instead, I make a large tub twice a week in our own kitchen. It takes me less than five minutes from start to finish. Chickpeas are very cheap.

We have one to three large tablespoons almost every day with a salad, or on bread.

Chickpeas are the main ingredient of any authentic hummus recipe.

Planning. Now is the time to decide just how much space you have in your garden for vegetables and fruit, remembering that FIVE colours in your diet every day is mandatory if you don't want to get cancer. The Black and White diet went out with B&W TV! If your space is limited, could I punt for growing green beansJust three or four pole bean seeds, planted every week or two will keep you in green beans right through the summer. They'll grow like weeds up any trellis work in a sunny spot in the garden, on a fence, up a stake... easy!

And, once you have considered this green bean and lentil soup you WILL find a sunny corner for a few pole bean plants!

First fruits hanging from a pole bean vine.

In short, healthy eating is vital for sparkling good health, and especially a healthy nervous system. Don't expect to be healthy if you eat crap!

Fresh spinach recipes

A diet rich in magnesium, and of course many other minerals, phytochemicals and vitamins, is central in the management of arthritis; and there's no better place to get it than from fresh spinach recipes. It's really not entirely improbable that your neck arm pain has less to do with old whiplash injuries and more about your diet; fresh spinach should certainly be weekly, if not daily, on the menu.

Certainly we enjoy a dark green leafy vegetable every single day without fail; when did you last have spinach, kale, broccoli or arugula? Lettuce of course is great especially Cos, but Iceberg is bottom of the pile.

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