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Radiating Arm Pain from a Pinched Nerve


Pain that radiates up and down your arm can range from mildly uncomfortable to excruciating. Though several issues could be the cause radiating arm pain, a pinched nerve is most often the reason.

A pinched nerve, or nerve compression, results from too much pressure on a nerve from surrounding tissue, bones, muscles, cartilage, or tendons. This pressure interferes with the nerve’s ability to carry accurate signals from the brain to various parts of the body. The compressed nerve causes sensations such as pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness and can even affect the nerve’s ability to control muscles.

Pinched nerves can happen throughout your body, though one of the most common places is in the spine which causes tingling and pain up and down your arm. Nerve roots extend throughout the body and control muscle movements and sensations. They’re surrounded by the vertebrae – the bones that make up what is called your spinal column. These nerve roots can be compressed by a vertebra, especially when a disc begins to do degenerate.

Arm pain from a pinched nerve could be caused by:

  • Herniated disc — a tear in a vertebral disc’s outer layer that leaks the gel-like inner layer into the spinal canal, putting pressure on nerves in the area and causing significant discomfort.

  • Degenerative disc disease — this condition can happen to the discs between the vertebrae over time, resulting in lower back pain and neck pain due to the discs beginning to shrink and lose integrity.

  • Bone spur — a small outgrowth of bone that develops along the spine because of minor inflammation.

  • Spinal arthritis — caused by cartilage in the joints wearing down due to aging, wear, and tear, sometimes causing inflammation that places pressure on nearby nerves.

  • Repetitive motions — such as running or other exercise-related motions, extended use of a keyboard, or improper lifting.

  • Prolonged positions — such as when sleeping or sitting for long periods of time.

  • Pregnancy which increases weight and water retention, both of which are risk factors for developing pinched nerves.

Radiating arm pain might also be caused by a fracture, infection, or tumor. Pain in the left arm especially can be associated with a heart attack, so if you experience other symptoms along with left arm pain, like shortness of breath, or numbness in the arm, seek immediate medical care.

Pinched Nerve Treatments

  • Rest for the affected area is the most frequently recommended treatment for a pinched nerve.

  • You should stop any activities that press on the pinched nerve.

  • You might need a splint or brace to limit movement of your neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist.

  • Additional treatment includes physical therapy, medication and, as a last resort in extreme cases, surgery.

  • You might be referred to a specialist for a consultation.

  • If you’re experiencing radiating arm pain, numbness, or weakness in the hands or arms, make an appointment to evaluate whether your arm pain is caused by a pinched nerve.


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