Deep stabbing or aching pain in upper back and numb left tip of index finger

by Jen
(Ottawa, Canada)


Deep stabbing or aching pain in upper back and numb left tip of index finger.

Hello! 4 weeks ago I started to get really bad pain on the left side of my upper back by my shoulder blade. The pain would either be a stabbing/sharp pain or deeply ache most of the day, which radiated into the back of my upper left arm. I did massage therapy twice weekly since it started and tried cupping and acupuncture as we thought it was a knot.

2 weeks ago I developed numbness in the tip of my left index finger and the pain in my back continued. This week I was at my desk and a movement caused a pain to shoot down the back of my left arm and into my middle and ring finger. The pain at my elbow when that happened felt like I hit my funny bone.

Today I still have the pain in my back. It hurts more when I look left and down but also hurts (just less) when I look right and down. Does not get affected by looking left or right or left up or right up. When it is not a stabbing pain, it feels like a very deep ache (like i will never be comfortable again). Over the course of the day the pain worsens. I have no pain in my neck. There is a dull ache in the upper back part of my left arm and slight tingling in my left thumb and left index finger, which still is numb at the tip. Any ideas?

Hello Jen,
The pain in your arm is not following a 'dermatomal' pattern; the thumb and index fingers are supplied by a quite different nerve root to the middle and ring fingers; in fact even the middle and ring fingers normally belong to different roots. So, it's not clear.

That deep upper back pain needs to be assessed. It may be coming from your neck down the dorsal scapular nerve (C5) or it may be a rib or mid spine problem.

The upper limb tension test will give you an idea as to whether it's a true pinched nerve. Use the site search function at Chiropractic Help.

Does turning your head to the left and then looking up hurt? Does it then immediately radiate into your arm?

I'd start by having a really thorough examination from your doctor or chiropractor, don't just take NSAIDs, proper assessment and some x-rays of your neck and midback. If you're a smoker then a chest x-ray too. A pancoast tumour could do this, but very rare in non-smokers.

I hope this helps, let me know what comes of it.

Do you sleep on your tum?

Dr B


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Feb 03, 2018
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by: Jen

Thank you for your reply. I have had an assessment with a chiropractor and he is not sure. He thinks it may be pinched. I get electric pulsing treatment and ultrasounds since I've started. He has taped my shoulder back and has advised that it seems movement and stretching triggers the pain. He is concerned about the numbness in my finger.

I did look left and then up and it triggered the stabbing pain and radiated to my arm. This is called Spurling's sign.

I do not sleep on my stomach, always on my sides and I am not a smoker. Does this information help more? Should I have x-rays if it not bone related?

Yes, I think an x-ray of your neck is important; a positive Spurling's sign is always tricky.

Dr B

Spurlings test

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