Pain in Neck and Shoulder Radiating Down Arm Treatment

Apr 4, 2024 | Pain Management

Pain in the neck and shoulder radiating down the arm can be worrisome for most people, especially if that pain has lasted three months or longer. Chronic pain can be severely disruptive to a person’s day-to-day life, making basic activities like driving, typing, or sleeping difficult if not impossible. 

It’s important to understand the cause of this kind of pain and treat it as soon as possible so patients can regain control over their life and their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Let’s take a closer look at the sources of this kind of pain, how it’s diagnosed, and effective treatment options.

Why Does Pain in the Neck and Shoulders Radiate Down the Arm?

Pain that starts in the neck or shoulder region and travels down the arm — often reaching as far as the hand — can be due to a variety of causes such as disc herniation, spinal stenosis, cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve), or repetitive strain injury.

Ignoring neck and shoulder pain that radiates down the arm can lead to other physical complications — some of which can be potentially serious. Some of the most common experiences of untreated chronic pain include:

Worsening Pain

Over time, the underlying issue can worsen, leading to increased pain intensity and stiffness in the neck, shoulder, and arm.

Muscle Weakness

Chronic pain can weaken the muscles in the neck, shoulder, and arm, making it difficult to perform everyday activities like lifting objects, dressing, or combing your hair.

Nerve Damage

In severe cases, prolonged compression on a nerve can cause permanent damage. This might result in numbness, tingling, or even burning sensations along the path of the affected nerve.

Limited Mobility

Scarring and stiffness in the joints of the neck and shoulder can restrict your range of motion, impacting activities that require full arm movement.

Reduced Quality of Life

Untreated pain can become chronic, leading to frustration, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and a decreased overall quality of life.

Diagnosing Pain in Neck and Shoulder Radiating Down Arm

While occasional neck or shoulder pain is common due to poor posture or overuse, persistent or severe pain that radiates down the arm is a sign that you may need to visit a healthcare professional. An early diagnosis can prevent further damage and lead to faster, more effective treatment.

Most patients should start by seeing their primary care physician. If they’re unable to pinpoint the source of the problem or provide any noticeable relief, patients are often referred to a pain management specialist. These medical practitioners are specially trained to diagnose and treat a variety of painful conditions

Your initial appointment typically includes a physical examination, and questions about your pain (including how it started, its intensity and duration, and which, if any, treatments have provided some relief). Your specialist may conduct tests to diagnose your condition accurately, such as nerve conduction studies, EMG (electromyography), or imaging tests like X-rays, MRIs, or CT scans.

Treatments for Pain in Neck and Shoulder Radiating Down Arm

Non-surgical treatments are often the first line of defense against this type of pain. The most common include:

  • Physical therapy
  • Medication such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroid injections or nerve blocks
  • Lifestyle changes like improving your posture, exercise, or ergonomic adjustments at work

In cases where non-surgical treatments fail to relieve symptoms or if the condition is severe, surgical intervention might be necessary. Procedures like cervical disc replacement or cervical fusion can help alleviate this type of pain.

Living With Chronic Pain

Living with chronic pain can be challenging, but some do-it-yourself strategies can help manage it. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help reduce stress and alleviate pain. Cognitive-behavioral therapy like psychological counseling can be particularly beneficial if you’re experiencing any anxiety or depression caused by the physical suffering.

Many patients are eager to avoid experiencing this type of chronic pain again, so they are motivated to make lifestyle changes to prevent it from happening in the future. Regular exercise, maintaining good posture, avoiding repetitive motions, and taking frequent breaks when performing tasks can prevent or reduce symptoms and make it less likely that you’ll suffer this type of injury again.

Get Advanced Pain Treatments With HPM

At HPM, we offer a variety of medically advanced treatments to help chronic pain patients overcome their pain and restore normal body function. Our team of pain management specialists is trained to diagnose and pinpoint each patient’s true source of their pain, providing personalized treatment plans that result in a reduction or even elimination of their pain.

HPM operates a network of pain management clinics in rural communities across the U.S., making advanced pain management accessible to more people. Visit our website to find a location near you and start your journey towards a pain-free life.