Neuritis, neuralgia, Sciatica, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, & Carpal Tunnel all refer to conditions of the nerves. The underlying control system for your body is the brain. The brain communicates to the rest of the body through the many nerves that make up your nervous system. Some nerves go straight to their destination, but others combine to form complicated nerve networks called a ‘plexus.’ The brachial plexus is made up of nerves that come out of the middle and lower neck that supply information to the shoulders, arm, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers. The Lumbar Plexus is a similar arrangement of nerves originating in the Lumbar Spine and innervating the low back, pelvis, legs.
1. Brachial Plexus Aggravation
The nerves that make up the brachial plexus sometimes become irritated as they leave the spinal column. This occurs when the spinal bones in the neck and upper back are misaligned or do not have the range of motion they typically should. This potentially damages the very nerves they are supposed to protect. Any injury or trauma can cause the bones to become misaligned or decrease the local range of motion. Serious accidents or more minor irritations such as sleeping incorrectly can cause the vertebrae to become misaligned.
Muscles and joints throughout the chest and shoulders also contribute to tightness around the brachial plexus, causing similar symptoms. This can be caused be structural deformities such as previous shoulder injuries or anatomic variation such as cervical ribs. It can also be caused by one’s lifestyle, such as sitting at a desk or looking at a phone for too long. The pressure placed on the nerves and blood vessels can create numbness, tingling and pain down the arm collectively known as “thoracic outlet syndrome”.
2. Symptoms of Brachial Plexus Irritation
Symptoms from damage to or pressure on the brachial plexus can differ depending on location of the trauma.
Common symptoms to the shoulder, arm, wrist or hand are:
- Muscle weakness
- Muscle numbness
- Neck pain
- Neck stiffness
- Decreased range of motion in the neck, shoulder, elbow or wrist
3. Other Symptoms of Neck, Arm, Hand, and Shoulder Pain
Carpal Tunnel symptoms include tingling and numbness in the hand. The pain is described as incredibly intense and has been reported to awaken sufferers at night. This pain is often caused by the swelling in the wrist. People often confuse nerves that are disrupted by the spine, muscles or joints as carpal tunnel syndrome. However, the treatment in this case is completely different. Misdiagnosed conditions can sometimes lead to unnecessary injections or surgery which could have otherwise been treated with conservative chiropractic care and soft tissue therapies such as Active Release Technique.
The number of people suffering from pain and neurologic symptoms in their shoulders, arms and hands is on the rise. Many of them seek help from a chiropractor or sports massage therapist. The chiropractic approach analyzes the body’s underlying structure to locate and reduce stress on the nervous system. Sports chiropractors with additional training can further help through the use of functional training, rehab exercises and soft tissue approaches such as Active Release Technique (or A.R.T.) and Therapeutic Massage. Such an approach often eliminates the pain and correct the underlying structural problem that refers pain to the arm, wrist, and hand.
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If you are experiencing any of the signs or symptoms listed above, don’t hesitate to reach out to our San Francisco chiropractic clinic.