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How Is Arm Pain Treated by a Chiropractor?

Learn how a chiropractor treats arm pain from Dr. Karen Erickson in this Howcast video.


Chiropractors take a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating arm pain. There can be many causes of arm pain, and your chiropractor will do a careful examination to determine which structures are causing your pain. We want to evaluate all of the structures in what we call the kinematic chain between the neck, the shoulder, the elbow, the wrist and fingers to really determine which structures are in pain and where that pain is coming from. We want to look at neurological factors. We'll look at the muscles and tendons, the soft tissue in the arm. And of course we'll also look at the neurological structures.

The nerves to the arm come from the cervical spine, the lower cervical spine. And this is an area that can become strained from our lifestyles. We look down a lot when we're on computers or reading or texting. We're carrying heavy shoulder bags on our shoulders, heavy backpacks for children. And this puts a lot of stress on the nerves and the muscles that will then attach and pass through the shoulder and into the arm. Chiropractors may order diagnostic testing like x-rays or MRI to more precisely diagnose what's causing your condition. Things like stenosis, arthritis, or disc herniations can be a cause of nerve pain that goes down the arm, and these conditions often can be very successfully treated by chiropractors. But as your chiropractor treats you and continues with careful examination on each visit, they may refer you to a neurologist or an orthopedist if they feel that you need further evaluation for this condition.

We find that probably less than five percent of all arm pain caused by nerve irritation actually requires surgery. Most of it can be healed with conservative care like chiropractic. Your chiropractor will also recommend lifestyle changes. They may change the way your computer's set up, the kinds of pillows you use when you sleep, the way you sit on your sofa. And they'll address postural issues, how you're standing and how you're moving. In addition to adjusting your spine very precisely, a chiropractor may also adjust the extremity joints including shoulder, elbow, and wrist to make sure that everything is functioning as a unit.

Your chiropractor may also choose to use other modalities as part of the chiropractic session, which may include things like heat or ice, ultrasound, cold laser, gentle stretching, exercises to stretch or strengthen the structures surrounding the neck, shoulder, and arm. So it's important to know that arm pain can run the gamut. It can be quite serious and caused by disc herniations or nerve irritation, which can be conservatively treated by chiropractors. Or it can be more from postural or overuse syndromes, computers, heavy handbags. In either case, it's really important that you get it checked out right away.

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