shoulder problem when raised above my head


I am a 52 year old painter cum decorator. It sounds silly but when I am painting I struggle to hold my arm up; the brush seems to get heavier and heavier; I can't explain it. I can move the shoulder ok.

I randomly get cramps in my biceps when putting my hair up or reaching behind my head for the past year; it makes work really hard.


Dear Nicki,
There really are numerous possibilities, but what comes to mind is whether raising your arm cuts off the blood supply; it's known as a thoracic outlet syndrome.

Adson's test is requires a good deal of sensitivity and experience, but you might like to do it yourself.

Sitting in a normal chair, use the fingers of your left hand to locate the pulse in your right wrist; you need to be able to feel it very clearly.

It's called the radial pulse, and you might google it to help you locate it.

Then, to three things:
1. Turn your head to the right,
2. Look up and
3. Take in a deep breath.

Does it quite radically affect the pulse and, when you return your normal position does the pulse return?

If it does, consult a chiropractor, tell him or her about this, and ask to have your first rib and scalene muscles examined.

If you are a smoker, and have a cough, rather see your doctor.

Clearly, a thorough examination is needed; something is happening and after a year it's better not to ignore it any longer.

Dr B

» shoulder problem when raised above my head

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