Chiropractic care may help common problems such as shoulder, arm and hand pain.
Irritation of large nerve structures in the mid to lower regions of the neck and upper thoracic spine and rib cage can lead to problems such as: shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist or hand problems, ranging from numbness or ‘pins and needles’ to muscle weakness or sharp pain.
In much the same way that nerves exiting the low back can affect the thigh, lower leg, and foot, nerves that exit the lower neck supply the arm, forearm, and hand.
There are seven cervical vertebrae in the neck, named C1 through to C7. They descend towards the thoracic spine and thoracic vertebrae. Seen from the side, the curve of the cervical spine extends into the upper thoracic spine before gradually changing direction. The upper thoracic nerves and vertebrae are often mechanically involved with lower cervical/low neck problems because of their proximity.
Lower neck problems
(C6,C7, and T1) can also involve the upper rib-cage; if this is the case there will be tenderness over the head of the first or second rib. This is located deep under the flesh of the trapezius muscle that drapes over the shoulder. There may also be tenderness over the attachments of the upper ribs to the sternum on the front of the upper chest.
Distinct patterns of discomfort or pain extending as far as the little finger on each hand may be elicited with mild pressure over the rib heads. These pain syndromes emanating from tiny little areas of spasmed muscle are referred to as ‘myofascial trigger points’.
Loss of ‘opposition grip strength’, weakness when holding the little finger and thumb hard against each other) , may be an early sign of trouble. Numbness and loss of circulation from the inside of the elbow to the little finger can also be exacerbated by a lower neck or upper rib problems.
(C4, C5) Stiffness in rotation or movement of the neck can often involve feelings of weakness or stiffness in the shoulder region. The specific muscles around the shoulder that rotate, flex, or extend the upper arm into different positions may be affected. This irritation may come from the nerve pathways that come from the middle of the neck. It may prove difficult to hold an upper arm with bent elbow up high against downward pressure.
Mid to lower neck problems
(C5,C6,C7) can irritate nerve pathways to the big flexor and extensor arm muscles, (biceps and triceps). Deep pain with weakness within the upper arm can result. Tendon reflexes for those big arm muscles can be suppressed too.
What to do:
If you need specific attention for your neck, shoulder, arm or hands a chiropractic spinal examination is a good place to start.
Next post we’ll deal with upper neck problems, headaches, and pain behind the eye.