Upper back and arm pain — causes and treatment

While arm pain is very often related to an injury or muscle strain, it can also be caused by a cervical (upper) spine condition that has resulted in radiating pain down the arm and hand.

Chronic arm and neck or upper back pain can get in the way of an active lifestyle. Unfortunately for many people, arm pain can be hard to diagnose. Some spine conditions only produce radiating pain, which means you may feel pain, numbness or tingling in your arm and hand with no signs of pain or discomfort in your neck or back. In these situations, it is difficult for a physician to know to look for a spine condition causing the arm pain and not an injury or damage to the arm itself.

If you have been experiencing chronic arm pain and you have not been able to find a diagnosis for your condition, we encourage you to seek help from a spine care specialist. Your pain may be a result of a common spine condition that can be treated with conservative nonsurgical therapies.

Causes of upper back and arm pain

A variety of conditions can cause pain in the upper back and in the arm, but the most common causes, aside from muscle strains and sprains of overuse, are degenerative conditions that affect the cervical (upper) region of the spine.

Degenerative spine conditions can cause the parts of the spine to weaken and move out of place, causing a nerve to be pinched by a displaced vertebra or disc. When a spinal nerve is pinched, the nerve sends pain signals along its pathway, which connects the brain to the rest of the body, such as the arm and hand. Therefore, the pinched nerve in the spine creates pain in the extremity.

When a nerve is compressed in the cervical spine specifically, several symptoms can result, such as:

  • Pain in the neck, shoulder or arm
  • Numbness in the arm or hand
  • Tingling in the arm or hand
  • Weakness in the arm or hand

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s important to consult a doctor to determine the cause of your pain and help you find a treatment option that is right for you.

Treatment options for arm and neck pain

There are a wide range of treatment choices available to those suffering from upper back pain, including:

  • Conservative treatment. In most cases, painful symptoms of nerve compression can be managed with several weeks of conservative nonsurgical treatment. This usually includes a combination of anti-inflammatory medication to reduce swelling, heat therapy and stretching exercises.
  • Traditional open back surgery. This treatment may be recommended for patients who have not responded to a full course of conservative treatment. These operations are highly invasive and can require a significant time commitment because of hospitalization and lengthy recuperation periods.
  • Minimally invasive spine procedures. This third option is an outpatient alternative to traditional open back surgery. Conducted with state-of-the-art technology, minimally invasive spine surgery addresses many of the causes of neck and back pain with reduced risk and shorter recovery periods^ than traditional open spinal surgery.

After reviewing the options, you should consult your physician about which treatment plan would best fit your needs. You can also call our caring team at Laser Spine Institute for more information so you can make an informed decision about your spine care needs.

Minimally invasive alternatives for arm or neck pain

Laser Spine Institute offers minimally invasive surgery that can help treat the common spine conditions that cause neck and arm pain, as well as other types of spine conditions.

Our minimally invasive surgery is performed through a less than 1-inch incision that spares the muscles surrounding the spine, allowing our patients to experience less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time than patients who choose to undergo traditional open back surgery.

For more information about the advantages of Laser Spine Institute, please contact our team today. We are pleased to offer a no-cost MRI review* to help you determine if you are a potential candidate for one of our procedures.