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Your Arm Pain May Be Coming From Your Neck

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Have you ever experienced a burning pain or a “pins and needles” sensation running from your shoulder down to your hand? Even though you might think there is a problem with your shoulder, your neck may be the issue even if you are not experiencing neck pain.

What is Cervical Radiculopathy?

shoulder pain comes from the neckThe type of condition you might be dealing with is called cervical radiculopathy. By definition, cervical radiculopathy is a disease or lesion of a cervical spinal nerve root.1

Your cervical spine is made up of seven cervical vertebrae. The nerves that control sensation and movement in your arms exit from holes that are formed by each vertebrae sitting on top of each other. The cervical spinal nerve root is the first portion of the nerve as it exits your vertebral column and then makes its way down your arm. Cervical radiculopathy is most commonly caused by compression on the cervical nerve root due to either a bone spur or a disc herniation.4 As you get older and each decade passes, your chances of developing cervical spondylosis (degenerative changes in the cervical spine to include a bone spur) increase.5

Treatment Options

If you get referred to physical therapy by your medical physician for treatment of your arm pain due to cervical radiculopathy, you will be in good hands at Athletico. This is because Athletico employs many therapists that specialize in spine therapy.

Conservative treatment options for cervical radiculopathy include physical therapy, rest, oral steroids and epidural steroid injections. Studies have shown that 90 percent of people with cervical radiculopathy will improve with conservative treatment.4 A variety of physical therapy interventions have been proposed to effectively treat patients with cervical radiculopathy, such as therapeutic exercises, mechanical cervical traction, manual therapy and modalities.4 Your Athletico spine specialist may prescribe exercises to improve your neck motion and show you neck positions that may be more comfortable and lessen your arm pain.

Mechanical cervical traction is a modality that your therapist may use to help relieve your symptoms. When mechanical cervical traction is applied, patients are lying down on their back on a table with a device that holds their head and neck in a comfortable position while the machine applies a gentle force to cause small amounts of distraction between the vertebrae. Studies show that patients with cervical radiculopathy who receive mechanical cervical traction report reductions in neck and arm pain.2,3 A spine specialist at Athletico may  also apply traction to your neck with their hands to help address joint or muscle stiffness in your neck.

Get Back to Doing What You Love

As you can see, Athletico has a variety of ways to help patients who have arm pain that might be coming from the neck. Give your nearest location a call to schedule an appointment so you can feel better and return to doing all the activities that you love! Or you can request an appointment online!

Click to Request an Appointment Today

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.


1 Anderson, K. N., Anderson, L. E., & Glanze, W. D. (1998). Mosby’s Medical, Nursing, and Allied Health Dictionary. St. Louis: Mosby.

2 Moeti, P., & Marchetti, G. (2001). Clinical outcome from mechanical intermittent cervical traction for the treatment of cervical radiculopathy: a case series. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy , 207-213.

3 Olivero, W. C., & Dulebohn, S. C. (2002). Results of halter cervical traction for the treatment of cervical radiculopathy: retrospective review of 81 patients. Neurosurgery Focus , ECP1.

4 Wainner, R. S., & Gill, H. (2000). Diagnosis and Nonoperative Management of Cervical Radiculopathy. Journal of Orthopedics and Sports Physical Therapy , 728-744.

5 Rowland, L. P., & McCormick, P. C. (1995). Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy. In L. P. Rowland, Merritt’s Textbook of Neurology (pp. 455-459). Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.

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