For around 4/5 months I've been getting constant throbbing, numb like pain in my left arm with a pins and needles like sensation going into my fingers and thumb. The pain seems to be mostly around the inner forearm and around the funny bone like when you hit your funny bone and the electric shock type feeling.
I also have a constant dull pain in my left scapula especially noticeable at night when I'm laying in bed and when there is pressure applied upon it. I get occasional pain in the upper left chest also. In the past month or so I have noticed the pain also radiating into my upper arm where my bicep is. This pain occurs only on the left hand side and is the side which I don't use very much.
I'm an electrician and do a lot of twisting and turning and around 10 years ago I broke my left wrist and have had several electric shocks in the past but I am not sure if that has anything to do with it.
I've had an x-ray done of my left upper chest and left scapula which both came back fine. I have been waiting nearly 3 months for a referral to the orthopaedic department of the hospital but am not sure if this is the proper way to go. Please help as this pain is starting to wear me down and get in the way of my daily lifestyle now.
Symptoms radiating to both the hand and the midback, suggests the source is somewhere in the lower neck, or what is called the thoracic outlet. With the former, the neck, the symptoms in your arm are likely to be relieved when raised above your head, but an impingement in the thoracic outlet worsens when working up high. Which is it?
Take note of exactly which fingers are affected; this is critical to a correct diagnosis. Carpal tunnel syndrome for example will affect the thumb, index, middle and ring fingers.
Then, does turning your head to the left, and then looking up provoke any symptoms in the midback or arm? This is called Spurling's sign.
Ask your wife to help you do the upper limb tension test; this would confirm you have a pinched nerve in the neck. The triceps muscle is likely to become weak; watch out for that; elbow extension as in doing pressups. Was there any change in the reflexes when your doctor examined you?
Try pricking your arm, and comparing with the right, using a pin; is there a significant difference.
That upper chest pain; is there any tenderness, or a lump where the ribs or collarbone meet the sternum? Compare right and left.
The last test is a difficult one for you to do, but you might try. Locate the pulse in your left wrist with your right fingers; now turn your head to the left, look up and take in a deep breath; does it affect the pulse; does the pulse return when you breathe out and return your head to the neutral position?
It's called Adson's test. Use the 'Site search' in the navigation bar at Chiropractic Help to find terms like these explained.
With your left elbow against your side, grasp your wrist with your right hand, and pull outwards. Is it as strong as your right arm?
I would recommend an x-ray of your neck, including the oblique views. Let me know if these tests turn up anything interesting.
I hope this contributes.
Dr Barrie Lewis