Stabbing pain in upper back and tricep

Stabbing pain in upper back and tricep


5 weeks ago I had very strong muscle contraction/spasm which lasted for about 30-40 seconds which caused stiffed left arms, left shoulder and upper back.

After 2-3 days stiffness was gone and I was back on normal movement. However, there was a burning sensation on my triceps and pins and needles pain on elbow joint and in triceps muscle. Also there was a stabbing pain in upper back right in the middle.

Since then I have same pain and now sometimes on left chest as well. It is pain like somebody is pinching me. Its constant 24/7. My GP prescribed NSAIDs and keeps saying its muscle pain and it will go away. I visited Osteo and they are saying same thing. GP ordered Xray which is normal.

I read lots of article on net but none helped so far on try to find out what exactly is happened and how to fix it. Pain is bearable whilst I take NSAIDs then it comes back again. There is no restriction of movement or weakness just constant pin/needle pain.

Initially 2 days I felt numbness and tingle in my left ring finger but it is normal now. Just tricep, back right on spine and chest has this pain.

From reading it looks like I have disk issue on either C6 or C7 but I don't understand why suddenly at night. I didn't lift anything nor had any accident etc.

some facts
- I go to gym and never had any issues.
- The night I had that spasm, 3 before I visited gym. So it's not something which I did in gym.
- I was sleeping on fairly raised pillow (this could be one reason, since then I have changed to slim pillow)
- I work in IT, so constantly on keyboard.

Any help of guidance will be greatly appreciated.


Hello Sam,
There are some indications, but nothing absolutely definite from what you tell me. A disc injury is possible, but usually you then also get severe neck pain. More tests are needed, and some of them you can do at home.

The ring finger (usually with the pinkie) belongs to the C8 dermatome, which emerges between C7/T1. The triceps muscle is innervated by all nerve roots, C5-T1, but in the main C7. It's also the most frequently affected muscle in a pinched nerve in the neck.

T1 also wraps around the chest, hence the pain in the chest wall.

But first a couple questions.

1. If you turn your head to the left, and then simultaneously look up, what do you feel?

2. Get help and do the Upper Limb Tension test ... what do you feel in the left arm?

3. With your elbow bent, and palm facing the chest, ask a friend to press against your wrist, towards your body. You resist. Is there a difference right and left?

4. Place your hand on your head. Relief, or worse?

This problem is usually worse at night, nothing unusual there.

You can't see a bulging disc on X-ray. An MRI, yes... expensive.

Deep upper back pain is often associated with this problem, though more usually C5.

Let me have some answers, and we'll take this further.

Go from Stabbing pain in upper back and tricep to Chiropractic Help home index page …

Find a good chiropractor may be your next step.

I hope this has contributed.

Dr B

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Nov 23, 2017
Started with a stiff neck now pain in scapula, down triceps and going into my elbow now
by: Anonymous

Hello, a week ago I woke up fine and a few hours later my neck tightened up into a severe stiff neck. I rubbed it and placed heat on it but with very little if any relief. I figured a couple days and it would be fine. After a few days with continued stretching and massaging (myself) it was getting worse. I asked my dad and daughter to rub it for me but they couldn’t get in there so I asked them to put their elbow into it which helped give some relief. I took some Tylenol and went through the day with little pain here and there depending on movements. That evening it got much worse going down my arm through the tricep and now into elbow.

My pain is worse when leaning forward, trying to sit up from a supine position or just standing hanging to my side. I have full ROM with no pain. It’s hard to describe the pain because it varies from dull ache, severe ache, sharp, burning etc all depending on time of day and movement I’m making. I’ve never experienced this before and it’s effecting everything. Please any help would be appreciated.
Thank you so much.

Apologies, I missed this whilst on leave. It's now several months; if it's still troubling, please tell me what's happening now, and what treatment you have had.

Dr B

Jun 15, 2016
Neck and tricep pain
by: John

Have hard time turning head far right. Pain running down shoulder and into triceps with a stabbing pain.

Does any one have any ideas?

Hello John,
There's nothing unusual in this at all; it's an every day event at the chiropractic clinic.

However, solving the problem may be more difficult. There are several different causes, but the most likely is worn joints of Luschka in the lower neck.

That restricts your movement and, because they sit at the entrance to the neural foramina, the nerve to the upper back muscles and the triceps is being effected.

First step is to get an x-ray including the oblique views.

If you want to continue this discussion please copy and paste this into a new comment form; you've tagged onto someone elses.

Type Luschka into the search this site in the navigation bar at chiropractic help.

Dr B

Apr 03, 2016
Same problem
by: Anonymous


I am having the exact same issues as you were having. It's been about a year since you posted, so I'm hoping your better now. What was the treatment? Please advise. Thank you.


Hello Doug, let's see what Chandra's response is; hopefully he answers.

Dr B

Jun 06, 2015
similar issue with my triceps
by: Anonymous

I have similar issue, can you help me please. I don't know what caused it, but I feel the tingling in my right thumb, pointer and middle finger when I lift my hand up and use the mouse or type, or when I drive the car. Initially my upper back right side was sore but that is no more now. Nothing happens while I do my daily activities or when I sleep. The triceps and the elbow joint pains when this happens.
1. If I turn my head towards right it hurts more than when I turn left.
2. My left arm is normal.
3. Nothing happens if my wrist is pressed with elbow bent.
4. There is relief if I lift my hand up over the head.
I would greatly appreciate your response.
Thank you so much,

Thank you Chandra for a thoughtful question, well presented. Let's take your points one at a time.

1. Relief with lifting your arm over your head is known as the shoulder abduction relief sign. You can find more details at chiropractic help by using the search this site function. It points to a nerve root impingement in your neck.

2. This is confirmed by the fact that turning your head to the right hurts. But is the pain in your lower neck, or your fingers? This is Spurling's sign.

3. However, the fact that you are getting the tingling also in your middle finger doesn't fit. That would lead us to think of a thoracic outlet syndrome perhaps, or median nerve problem in the shoulder, elbow or carpal tunnel.

4. You are fortunate not to have night pain. A true pinched nerve in the neck is often worse at night.

5. The triceps is the most commonly affected muscle in an nerve root impingement syndrome. Does it also feel week, and are there twitches in the muscle?

6. If you prick your fingers and arm, is there a difference right and left?

7. The Upper Limb Tension Test is an important diagnostic criterion. So too Adson's test. Find them using the site search function.

In short, this is complex, and what's needed is a careful and thorough examination, not just painkillers or anti inflammatories. And an xray of your neck, including oblique views.

Let me know how you get on.

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've left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he's 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's 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 painfree. 

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's well pleased; sixty five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he's 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 walk 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.

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. Xrays 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 year 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's a non complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she's doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38 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 couldn't 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 shouldn't be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that's so much bunkum.

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