Nerve pain in the arm post surgery for a rotator cuff tear.

by Cindy

Joint of Luschka injury

Joint of Luschka injury

Nerve pain in the arm post surgery for a rotator cuff tear.

I had rotator cuff surgery in July 3,2015; had a medium tear, surgery and recovery went well; good mobility.

Now for the past month I wake with severe pain in my armpit that travels down toward elbow, only way I can get relief is to hold arm up. This last anywhere from 20 min. to 2 hrs. As long as I use arm, gets tired easily, everything is ok; then, when I sit back to rest, the armpit pain returns.

Also my pinky and ring finger has pins and needles most all the time now.

The doctor said this is unrelated to the rotator cuff surgery.

Does anyone have any idea what is going on with me?

Dear Cindy,
Sometimes a condition is actually a symptoms of something else. Like, for example, raised blood sugar is often really a sign of obesity; unless you treat the underlying problem, the condition won't go away.

Very many shoulder conditions are actually secondary to a problem in the lower cervical spine, or first rib.

Your doctor is probably right; the surgery didn't cause this pain in the arm you are experiencing, but it was there all along causing the weakness in the rotator cuff, provoking one of them to tear when you did something routine with your arm.

There are two important signs; tingling in the pinky and ring finger, that's pure C8 dermatome, and relief by raise your arm; that's called the shoulder abduction relief sign.

You almost certainly have a seriously pinched nerve in the neck; it causes tingling in a specific dermatome, weakness in the muscles supplied by the C8 nerve root, relief by placing your hand on your head and increased pain by carrying anything in the arm. That stretches the nerve which is tethered in your neck.

The way forward is xrays of your cervical spine, including obliques, and probably a MRI. Then, once a diagnosis is made you have the difficult decision whether to stick with mainline medicine, or try something different. I'm afraid neither will be easy. Occasionally in the chiropractic clinic miracles happen, but mostly it's hard work for your DC, and patience on your part.

You probably have degenerative changes in the joints of Luschka or a slipped disc.

Remember, I'm being the devil's advocate. I have not had the privilege of examining you, but I do have 35 years of treating conditions like yours under the belt. Anything you read on the internet should be treated with caution, including what I've written.

Print this out perhaps, and starting looking for a local chiropractor with a good reputation for being conscientious and hard working; it's going to take that. Ask you doctor for a name too.

Good luck and let us know how you progress.

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 have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is 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 is 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 pain-free. 

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 is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has 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 stroll 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; he has a short leg.

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. X-rays 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 few months 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 is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year 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 could not 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 should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

Do you have a problem that is not getting better?

Are you looking for a different slant on your pain?

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Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what a DC does.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my eBooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful from the life and work of a chiropractor, you will love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the amount without telling me.