Arm Pain? Check the Neck!
woman with neck pain


Do you have a deep ache or weird sensation in the shoulder, elbow, or hand? Does it come and go? Does it get worse when you stay in one position for too long, sometimes spreading into other areas? Do you massage or ‘shake it out’ to get relief?

Check the neck!

All too often, these symptoms originate from the neck. Sometimes the neck isn’t even painful. 

The culprit?

A pesky nerve.

Nerves are sneaky. They like to disguise themselves as other injuries. This is why physical therapists at JACO Rehab always check the neck at your first visit before diving into the site of your pain. If our neck screen reproduces the pain in your arm, that gives us useful information in forming a unique treatment plan for you. 

Nerves come from the spinal cord, a structure which runs through your spine. When nerves branch off the spinal cord, they travel down the limbs to detect sensations in your environment or feed activity into your muscles. Sometimes repetitive movements or prolonged positions of the spine can cause irritation to one of the nerves. 

When a nerve is irritated, it can cause sensations of pain, numbness, tingling, and/or altered temperature. 

At first, it comes and goes. The longer that the nerve has been irritated, the more frequent you’ll feel your symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms intensify in one place, and sometimes they travel down the limb to create more wide-spread discomfort.

Nerves are also fickle. They like to alter their behavior depending on how aggravated they are, which can change in a matter of minutes. 

The good news? Nerve symptoms get better fast.

The bad news? Nerve symptoms get worse fast.

If you have shoulder, elbow, or hand pain… it could be just that. Or, it could be a sneaky, fickle nerve disguising itself as a different injury. Be thorough – get someone to help you check the neck!

If you have pain that you would like to get assessed by a physical therapist, ask your primary care physician for a referral to JACO Rehab. We can help you differentiate your pain and get you on the path to recovery from day one. 

Article by Nicole Hernandez, PT, DPT at Jaco Rehab

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