Neck Arm Pain

john miller physiotherapist

Article by John Miller

neck arm pain

What is Neck-Arm Syndrome?

Neck arm syndrome or neck arm pain, are umbrella terms which encompass a variety of conditions affecting your neck or upper back that also include some arm symptoms. The most common type of neck arm pain is Neck-Shoulder Pain, which is obviously a relationship between neck and shoulder pain.

Neck-arm pain is specific to dysfunctions which refer symptoms down the arm and have the potential to cause abnormal neural tension or compression.  

Common Causes of Neck-Arm Pain

What Causes Abnormal Neural Tension? 

Neural tension refers to the amount of strain on a nerve at rest and with movement. An abnormal increase in neural tension occurs when the nerve becomes caught or restricted anywhere along its path. 

Common causes for this include a restriction in neck joint mobility, inflammation at soft tissue interfaces or muscle spasm around a nerve.  

Neural tension can be increased or decreased by changing the position of your arm. Different arm positions will target different nerve branches. Your physiotherapist is an expert at the assessment of your neurodynamics (nerve mobility). 

What are the Symptoms of Neck-Arm Syndrome? 

  • Neck pain, stiffness or soreness
  • Pins and needles 
  • Numbness  
  • Weakness  
  • Burning, sharp or dull pain radiating down the arm.

The location of your symptoms correlates with the muscles and skin innervated by the affected nerve. This is why you may experience numbness over only the 4th and 5th fingers, or 2nd and 3rd fingers, or burning pain over the outside of your elbow but not the inside. Your symptoms are nerve specific. It is important to keep your physiotherapist updated on any changes in the location and degree of your symptoms.  

How is Neck-Arm Pain Diagnosed? 

The nature of your symptoms is very useful in differentiating between Neck-Arm Syndrome and other causes of your arm pain. In addition, your physiotherapist is able to identify abnormal neural tension by moving your arm into specific positions to test the movement of each nerve as it travels down the arm. 

The range of movement on your affected side is compared to your unaffected side to see what is normal for you. Once the presence of abnormal neural tension has been confirmed, your physiotherapist will conduct a series of tests to determine the area and structures which are restricting the movement of the nerve.  

Neck-Arm Pain Treatment

Abnormal neural tension normally resolves with treatment of the primary dysfunction. Commonly this is within your neck or upper back joints, where the nerve is exiting the spinal canal.  

Your physiotherapist will use an array of treatment tools to reduce your pain and inflammation, restore full joint movement and normalise muscle activity at the site of the dysfunction. These may include: thermal therapy, acupuncture, electrotherapy, taping techniques, soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation and alignment techniques, muscle stretches and neurodynamic exercises.  

Your physiotherapist is an expert in the techniques that will work best for you and will tailor your rehabilitation to help you achieve (and maintain!) your own functional goals. 

What Results Can You Expect? 

Pure Neck-Arm Pain is generally resolved completely when the primary dysfunction is fixed. The length of recovery is often affected by how long you have had the symptoms. 

In most cases, you can expect a noticeable decrease in your arm symptoms within the first few treatment sessions.  

In some cases, a local dysfunction in the arm may also be present. This is most common in conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tennis Elbow, where both areas will need to receive treatment in order to enable a full recovery!  

More Advice 

If you have any concerns or have some specific questions regarding your condition, please ask your physiotherapist.

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Neck Arm Pain Treatment Options

  • Bed Rest
  • Early Injury Treatment
  • Avoid the HARM Factors
  • What to do after a Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain?
  • Acupuncture and Dry Needling
  • Sub-Acute Soft Tissue Injury Treatment
  • Scapular Stabilisation Exercises
  • Closed Kinetic Chain Exercises
  • Biomechanical Analysis
  • Proprioception & Balance Exercises
  • Medications?
  • Ergonomics
  • Soft Tissue Massage
  • Brace or Support
  • Deep Neck Stabilisation Exercises
  • Dry Needling
  • Electrotherapy & Local Modalities
  • Heat Packs
  • Joint Mobilisation Techniques
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Neurodynamics
  • Physiotherapy Instrument Mobilisation (PIM)
  • Prehabilitation
  • Strength Exercises
  • Stretching Exercises
  • Supportive Taping & Strapping
  • TENS Machine
  • Video Analysis
  • Yoga
  • Call PhysioWorks

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    Neck Arm Pain FAQs

  • Common Physiotherapy Treatment Techniques
  • What is Pain?
  • Physiotherapy & Exercise
  • Massage Styles and their Benefits
  • What Causes Post-Exercise Muscular Pain?
  • ​What's the Fastest Way to Get Rid of Neck Pain?
  • Can Kinesiology Taping Reduce Your Swelling and Bruising?
  • Chest Pain: Is it a Heart Attack or Your Spine?
  • Headache or Migraine... What to do?
  • Heat Packs. Why Does Heat Feel So Good?
  • How Can You Relieve Your Neck Pain?
  • How to Achieve the Best Standing Posture
  • How to Minimise or Prevent Whiplash
  • Migraine? Free Online Test
  • Neck Headache? Free Online Test
  • Posture Trainer? Check out the BackTone 4000
  • Sports Injury? What to do? When?
  • Tension-Type Headache? Free Online Test
  • What are the Benefits of a Standing Desk?
  • What are the Common Adolescent Spinal Injuries?
  • What are the Common Massage Therapy Techniques?
  • What are the Early Warning Signs of an Injury?
  • What are the Healthiest Sleeping Postures?
  • What are the Signs of an Unsupportive Pillow?
  • What Can You Do To Help Arthritis?
  • What is a TENS Machine?
  • What is Chronic Pain?
  • What is Good Standing Posture?
  • What is Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy?
  • What is Nerve Pain?
  • What is Sports Physiotherapy?
  • What is the Correct Way to Sit?
  • What to expect when you visit PhysioWorks?
  • What's the Benefit of Stretching Exercises?
  • When Should You Use a Shoulder Posture Brace?
  • Why do your Joints Click?
  • Why Kinesiology Tape Helps Reduce Swelling and Bruising Quicker
  • Neck Arm Pain Related Conditions

  • Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Bulging Disc
  • Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Cervicogenic Dizziness
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Facet Joint Pain
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Meniere's disease
  • Migraine
  • Muscle Strain
  • Neck Arm Pain
  • Neck Headache
  • Neck Sprain
  • Overuse Injuries
  • Pinched Nerve
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • RSI - Repetitive Strain Injury
  • Scoliosis
  • Spondylosis (Spine Arthritis)
  • Temporomandibular Joint Pain (TMJ)
  • Tension Headache
  • Text Neck
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Whiplash
  • Wry Neck
  • Neck Pain Products Available Online

    Neck Injuries

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    Last updated 14-Feb-2019 10:45 AM

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