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Is your Neck causing your Arm pain?

I see this often in my clinic, people presenting with issues of what appears to be a 'nervy' tingling pain down the arms.

If it is one arm only, it's usually caused by a compression of one of the common nerve entrapment sites. These nerves arise from the brachial plexus and can be entrapped from the neck down to the elbow.

Brachial Plexus

This is often rectified by some specialised manual therapy to the peripheral nerves. This is called Neural Manipulation and is very effective in it's own right.

While that therapy is very effective, often that wont' be enough and in a lot of cases where there is a nerve compression causing pain it is arising from inhibition of the 'deep neck flexors'. When we test the deep muscles of the neck the Longus Colli and Capitus they often present as inhibited.

Flexors of the Neck

This a problem as weak muscles in the front of the neck mean that the neck is unstable and out of balance. This is often caused by overactive neck extensors and poor midline stability.

After ruling out any higher order causes of neck instability such as primitive reflexes or vestibular issues, we then have to release the overactive neck extensors and use a specialised Sports Kinesiology Protocol to neurologically activate the Deep Neck Flexors.

Often times this alone can reduce or eliminate the pain radiating down the arm, as usually once the neck is in proper position, the nerve will also be in a better position, lessening the chances of a nerve compression injury happening.

Once the neck is identified as weak or inhibited then we need to turn it on neurologically then start to stabilise the neck. Once the neck is stronger we can release and move the effected nerves down the arm.

We then need to integrate this improved neck stability into the rest of the body as a strong and stable neck creates 'safety' for the brain which is always a good thing.

Case Study

Just a few months ago I had a client come in who had been complaining of arm pain caused by his job as a landscape gardener. After an initial assessment he had weakness in some shoulder muscles and a nerve pain down the arm along the radial nerve pathway. I then assessed his neck and found it to be inhibited. After correcting the neck which took a minute or so, most of his symptoms lessoned and the shoulder strength came back. A little bit of specific neuromuscular work was required to clear up the remaining imbalances. From there he performed some radial nerve glides to completely resolve the pain. He had to do the nerve glides and neck stability exercises as 'homework.' After checking in with him this week he still has had no symptoms since.

All of this took around 5 minutes and while it doesn't always work that quickly if we respect the hierarchy of the body then often therapy time can be drastically shortened. The body knows what structures are important.

What sets us apart at Functional Neuro Health is that we look at the body and mind through the 'lense' of this hierarchy. Regardless of the condition or issue you are presenting with we use this approach to work out the root causes of your ailment. This allows for very specific and often faster resolutions.

Moving forward I will be writing about more successful cases using this integrative approach to solve chronic and acute conditions.

Article by Nick Moss | Director and Integrative Functional Neurologist at Functional Neuro Health

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