Neck pain with arm symptoms could mean that your neck pain is also associated with pain, abnormal sensation, numbness, or weakness of your shoulders, arms, or hands.
This can indicate that there is pinching or pressure on a nerve in your neck. Possible causes can include but are not limited to cervical radiculitis, cervical radiculopathy, or cervical spinal stenosis, which can be diagnosed by a physician.
We recommend seeking medical attention if you have neck pain with arm symptoms. Treatment typically begins with over-the-counter pain relievers taken when needed and ice or heat packs applied to the painful neck muscles. Try to be aware of the neck postures and positions that worsen the pain and avoid them. Once you have seen a physician for an evaluation and exam, you may be prescribed physical therapy exercises to perform at home to relieve the pain and prevent future recurrences.
The neck pain may require more urgent medical attention if it is associated with an onset of bowel or bladder problems or an onset of weakness, loss of coordination, abnormal or loss of sensation in the arms or legs, or is associated with a trauma or a fall.
Be sure to see your doctor if you have a history of cancer, neck pain that disrupts your sleep or pain that is associated with fevers or unexplained weight loss.
Depending on the symptoms and based on the doctor’s exam, you may undergo a cervical spine x-ray or an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan to better determine the exact cause of the pain. Not all causes of neck pain require imaging. Sometimes, an electrodiagnostic test called an electromyography/nerve conduction study is performed to determine which nerve is affected or whether there is another cause in cases of arm weakness or numbness with neck pain.
Treatments might include pain medications or physical therapy. Physical therapy might include gentle cervical traction, mobilization or exercises to stretch and strengthen the neck and to improve neck posture.
In cases not improving with conservative treatments, sometimes an X-ray guided injection of anti-inflammatory (i.e. corticosteroid) medication close to an irritated nerve root (i.e. cervical epidural steroid injection) may be helpful. You will be referred to see a spin surgeon in cases of new neurological problems such as muscle weakness, loss of balance, or loss of bowel or bladder control.
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