Back Problems - Shoulder, Arm and Hand Problems

Your brain "talks" with the rest of your body through a vast communications system mostly made up of nerves. Some nerves exit from your neck to go to your throat, thyroid, voice box (larynx), trachea, heart and arteries. Some nerves go straight to their destination and others first from nerve networks called a plexus. You have a number of these nerve plexuses in your body: the cervical plexus on each side of your neck; your brachial plexus near your shoulders. Most musculoskeleta- related shoulder, arm, forearm, wrist and hand symptoms originate from the neck area and pass through either the cervical, or brachial plexus.

Brachial Plexus
Your brachial plexus is made up of nerves which come out of the middle and lower neck and upper back. After they interconnect to form the brachial plexus, the shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers can be affected. That's why a ruptured disc in the middle of your neck can cause numbness or tingling in your arm. This "Double Crush" syndrome is common in causing CARPAL TUNNEL, and other symptoms in the arms and hands, similar to Sciatica.

*Cox, James M. Neck, Upper Back,Shoulder & Arm Pain; pp 1-6, 1992.

Brachial Plexus Injury
The most common form of brachial plexus damage is really damage to the nerves that make up the brachial plexus as they exit the spinal column through openings between the bones (foramina). If the openings become smaller, due to dysfunction of the vertebra position, the nerves may become stretched, compressed or impinged (commonly called "pinched nerves").*

* Jackson, R. The cervical syndrome (4th ed.). Springfield, IL: Charles E. Thomas, 1977, pp. 183-187.

What causes the nerves to get impinged or "pinched"? Many things: long-standing spinal stress injury, common in certain careers (repetitive stress postures) such as hair stylists, dentists, old injuries, untreated from childhood, new injuries from sports mishaps (especially racquet sports), car accidents (especially whiplash type), arthritis, sleeping in an awkward position (too high of a pillow) and even chronic emotional stress creating excessive muscular tension and restriction of joint motion.

Results of Brachial Plexus Injury
There may be neck stiffness or pain that may radiate to the shoulder and elbow and down to the arm, wrist, hand or finger(s). Sometimes there's clicking or extremity pain but not neck pain. Sometimes there's no pain but numbness or feelings of heat, cold or swelling; or pain in one area and numbness in another; or "pins and needles" or muscle weakness or spasm.*

* Hult, L. Frequency of symptoms for different age groups and professions. In C. Hirsch & Y. Zotterman (Eds.), Cervical pain. Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1971, pp. 5-16.

Due to the complicated way nerves interrelate, conditions such as repetitive tension headache, migraine, limited or painful motion of the head and neck, have been reported as being caused by brachial plexus damage. Chiropractic care is essential for anyone with shoulder, arm, elbow and hand problems to relieve nerve stress and permit the spine, as well as the rest of the body, to function more normally.**

** Leach, R. "Theories of subluxation pathophysiology 58a". in The chiropractic theories: A synopsis of scientific research. Baltimore; Williams and Wilkins, 1986, p. 86.
** Revel M.
Cericocephalic Kinesthetic sensibility in patients with cervical pain. Arcg Phys Med Rehabil 1991; 72: 228.

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