Upper back, triceps elbow, forearm pain and tingling in hand

by Simon
(Bristol, UK)


Around the second of March 2017 I felt I had pulled a muscle in the upper back so that when I looked down the stretch on the back of my neck caused pain. Not too unusual really, but it didn't get any better, and 2 weeks later I was in agonising pain in the shoulder blade and upper back. Ibuprofen helped a bit, as did heat packs, but the pain, especially in the morning was agonising.

A friend did some Bowen therapy on it (2 sessions)which has helped. Now, 1 month later, the pain is more constant and low level in the tricep, elbow and forearm, accompanied by pins and needles in the hand.

It's interesting that you ask which movements cause dizziness, as when I try to stretch the back of my neck deliberately, I do feel dizzy, but understand this is a good thing to do for ulnar nerve adhesions, as per videos on 'neural flossing'.

I would really appreciate some ideas on what might be causing my symptoms, and obviously what might improve them. I have a very office based role, with a lot of keyboard and mouse work and the pain can prevent me from working as quickly as I would otherwise. I have switched the mouse to my left hand but typing still affects things.

Hello Simon,

This fits in general under the category of deep upper back pain; in your case it's not likely to be a local problem in the mid back, since there is radiation to the arm.

The dorsal scapular nerve emerges from the lower neck, supplying the rhomboid and levator scapular muscles in the midback, hence the stretch when you look down, but also supplies the arm, predominantly the upper arm.

Since it goes to the hand it may also involve a lower nerve root in your neck. Which fingers precisely are affected?

Having your mouse elbow supported at the elbow is very important; or put it far back on the desk.

This is almost certainly a problem in your cervical spine; I'd start with getting an x-ray taken, including oblique views.

The triceps muscle is the most commonly affected by a pinched nerve in the neck; watch out for weakness developing as in extending the elbow, and have the reflex tested.

Let me know what comes of it. It's certainly a very painful condition and, having had it for seven weeks, you mustn't ignore it; a careful and thorough evaluation is needed.

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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