Shoulder and arm pain can be debilitating, especially when there is no obvious cause or injury that needs to be treated. A rare condition known as brachial neuritis can cause spasms along with pain down the arm, followed by numbness, tingling, and weakness. If not diagnosed and treated early, the symptoms can worsen with time. The pain experienced can be described as sharp, searing, and shooting. Brachial neuritis can be intense and disabling when it presents for hours and even days.
Utilizing a chiropractic approach, shoulder and spinal adjustments can provide relief and a faster healing/recovery from the inflammatory condition. Individuals experiencing shoulder, arm, and possible hand pain should consult with a chiropractor about a potential home and clinic treatment plan to improve their condition.
Medical History and Examination
The process of diagnosing brachial neuritis involves an individual’s medical history and physical exam. More complicated cases could require imaging studies and electrodiagnostic tests. The first steps in diagnosing the cause of shoulder and/or arm pain include:
Information will be collected on an individual’s:
- Medical history
- Family history
- Underlying conditions
- Recent illnesses or injuries
- Lifestyle habits
- How and when symptoms began
- Current symptoms
A chiropractor will palpate or inspect by feeling the neck, shoulder, and arm for irregularities. Then they will examine the range of motion, strength, and reflexes. If the individual’s history and physical exam suggest that the cause could be brachial neuritis or other condition involving the nerves, imaging studies, and diagnostic tests could be required to evaluate further.
Symptoms of Brachial Neuritis
The condition is also known as Parsonage-Turner Syndrome. It affects the brachial plexus, a set of nerves that run from the neck and upper back to the shoulders. The condition usually affects only one side of the body and presents randomly.
What happens is the nerves become inflamed.
- Inflammation can be triggered through an autoimmune response. This is often the result of an infection, surgical procedure, or other internal stressors. The inflammation can lead to severe debilitating shoulder pain over a few days.
- This also leads to long-term numbness, weakness in the shoulder and arm.
- The pain becomes worse with movement.
- Typically, the pain goes away on its own within a few days.
- Numbness, weakness, or tingling in the shoulder or arm continues.
- Over time the symptoms begin to worsen and, if left untreated, could lead to muscular atrophy of the arm.
- The pain and weakness can make it difficult to move the arm, leading to decreased strength.
- Symptoms can last up to a year or more.
This is why individuals have to find ways to strengthen their shoulder/arm despite the condition.
Treatment requires a pain management program until the pain subsides. Once the pain is manageable, chiropractic, physical therapy, exercises, and stretches could improve mobility and strength. Chiropractic can provide relief and tools necessary to prevent the worsening of symptoms. Chiropractic helps to:
- Reduces pain
- Improves mobility
- Restores strength
Chiropractic manipulation will ensure that the nerves near the brachial plexus do not become compressed, but if they are, then chiropractic can be utilized to decompress/release them. In addition, trigger point release and massage can help alleviate the tension in the surrounding tissues of the arm and shoulder.
A chiropractor will educate the individuals on effective pain management techniques for home, including ice/heat therapy and stretching exercises. These techniques will help restore the proper alignment and flow of the spinal vertebrae, nerves, and muscle tissues, allowing the body to heal quickly, naturally, and more effectively.
Chiropractic Shoulder Pain Treatment
Feinberg, Joseph H, and Jeffrey Radecki. Parsonage-turner syndrome. HSS journal: the musculoskeletal journal of Hospital for Special Surgery vol. 6,2 (2010): 199-205. doi:10.1007/s11420-010-9176-x
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