Pain in neck and left arm
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
The neck is made up of bones that sit on top of each other in a column.
These bones- called vertebrae- are separated from each other by rubbery discs. The spinal cord runs from the brain down through a central canal in these vertebrae and sends out a pair of nerve roots at each vertebral level. These nerve roots exit through tunnels that are bounded on one side by discs and on the other by joints. Patients who have disc herniation or arthritis can develop nerve root irritation. The pain that occurs is felt sometimes in the neck and sometimes in the arm.
The pain in the arm can stem from a problem in the neck, much like leg pain can be come from the low back. This type of pain is called referred pain.
Another example is pain from a heart attack which may be felt in the jaw or down the left arm. Similarly, problems in the neck can "refer" pain down into the arm. Characteristics of referred pain include the following:
• The source of pain is usually deep.
• It is often felt as a vague, aching pain.
Treatment for referred pain must address the source of pain. If the doctor determines that the pain is coming from the neck, treatment for the neck-not the arm is needed. Helping the neck problem should take away or reduce the pain in the arm.
Many types of therapeutic exercise, and even yoga, can benefit this problem. It is important to move slowly and never "pull" or "crank" on the neck. Shoulders should remain down, moving away from the ears.
Here are some simple exercises...
Do not do these until you check with your physical therapist or physician!
The ear to shoulder neck stretch
While standing, slowly press the right ear towards the right shoulder. Keep the face pointing forward. Hold for five breaths and switch sides.
Neck rotation with hand on jaw
Turn the face and chin towards the right shoulder. Use the hand for additional resistance. Hold for five breaths and switch sides.
The shoulder shrug
Inhale, shrug shoulders up towards the ears. Exhale bringing shoulder blades together and move shoulder blades down the back. This lifting and external rotation of the shoulder girdle will help with proper posture and shoulder rotation. Practice slowly for five repetitions.
The shoulder stretch while pressing the arm down
While pressing the right ear towards the right shoulder, inhale and engage the left arm, exhale and press the arm down towards the floor. This will create more resistance and intensity in the pose. Hold for five breaths and switch sides.
Sitting on a mat, lean to the right side and let the right ear move towards the shoulder while slightly looking down towards the right hand. Inhale bringing the left arm up to shoulder height, exhale while pressing the arm away from the body. Hold for five breaths and switch sides.
Stand tall. Rotate the shoulders forward in a circle slowly 5 repetitions. Then roll them backwards in a circle for 5 repetitions.
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