Neck and Arm Pain: Symptoms, Treatment, and Recovery
The neck supports the head, associated muscles, ligaments, and bones. These structures of the neck often cause pain due to twisting and damage.
Patients with cervical radiculopathy generally experience neck and arm pain. It is characterized by nerve compression in the neck, leading to pain that spreads through the arms. Pain in these areas can be seriously debilitating and negatively impact physical and mental health, rendering it crucial to seek timely treatment to prevent further damage.
What Causes Neck and Arm Pain?
The normal aging process causes tissue degeneration. Physiological changes with aging may lead to pinching of the cervical nerves and subsequent neck and arm pain.
The disintegration of the cervical spine vertebrae is another cause of neck and arm pain. Degeneration of the cervical backbones is a feature of arthritis and spondylosis. Degenerative changes lead to the formation of bone spurs which impinge on the nerves causing pain.
A herniated disc can protrude and put pressure on nearby nerves. Disc slips and herniations can be the result of accidents or whiplash injuries.
Neck and Arm Pain Risk Factors
The primary risk factors for cervical radiculopathy include:
- Neck trauma (accidents, RTA)
- White race
- Playing golf
- Previous lumbar radiculopathy
- Sports injuries
- Whiplash injuries
- Strenuous activities like heavy weight lifting jobs
Symptoms of Neck Pain and Arm Pain
Neck and arm pain may coexist with other damaged nerve symptoms. Some of the common symptoms patients typically report are:
- Radiating pain or numbness that moves from the neck to the arm.
- Stabbing, burning, and tingling sensations down the arm
- Muscle weakness in the arms
How Are Neck and Arm Pain Diagnosed?
Your doctor might order specific radiographs to reach the correct diagnosis. X-rays, CT scans, and MRI scans aid in visualizing abnormalities in the soft and hard tissues.
Physicians recommend electromyography (EMG) if they suspect radiculopathy (nerve entrapment). An EMG is a nerve conduction test used to determine the functioning of the cervical nerves.
Treatment for Neck Pain and Arm Pain
The primary aim of the treatment is to balance the cervical spine and alleviate symptoms. Several non-surgical and surgical treatment modalities can help you reduce neck and arm pain.
Physiotherapy can reduce pain and immobility in cervical radiculopathy patients. Physical therapy may improve blood flow to the neck, reduce muscle tightness, and boost healing. Manual therapy paired with mobility exercises can reduce neck and arm pain and improve range of motion.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and ibuprofen can reduce inflammation. Analgesic painkillers such as pregabalin and gabapentin can help reduce nerve pain symptoms. Severe cases often require oral corticosteroids.
A soft cervical collar can help immobilize the neck structures. The padded collar helps limit neck movement, thus, allowing muscles to return to the normal position. The restoration of the muscle balance decreases the pitching of the nerve roots.
In cases of moderate to severe inflammation in the vertebral joints, physicians administer corticosteroid injections in joint facets. These injections relieve the nerve by decreasing inflammation.
Severe cervical radiculopathy cases may require an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). However, the anterior endoscopic cervical decompression procedure has proven to be a minimally invasive yet effective alternative to ACDF.
Neck and Arm Pain Recovery Time
You might experience stiffness and soreness in your neck following the surgery, which should subside within a few days.
Resting as much as possible and getting proper sleep will speed up healing. Avoiding strenuous activities and trying to walk a little each day will also help with recovery.
Provided you follow your doctor’s directions and avoid activities that put excessive pressure on your neck, you should be able to resume normal activities between four to six weeks.
How Can I Prevent Neck and Arm Pain?
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent neck and arm pain, you can minimize the risk of the condition by adopting some elementary lifestyle changes.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, exercising to stay physically fit, and maintaining the correct posture can help decrease your chances of cervical radiculopathy.
Expert Neck and Arm Care at Raleigh Orthopaedic
If you suffer from debilitating neck and arm pain, consider getting the best comprehensive orthopedic care at Raleigh Orthopaedic. Our expert neck and back specialists will diagnose and eliminate your persistent neck and arm pain with a treatment plan designed for your specific needs.
Call us or book online today to schedule your appointment at any of our six convenient locations across Wake County, NC.