Radiating pain is one of the more common complaints that we get here at Tulsa Spine and Rehab. Sometimes it could be referred to as radicular pain, a referral type of pain source, maybe even a pinched nerve. Okay. Most of the time it’s not the arm. Let’s use the arm, for example, radiating pain down to the arm. Many times, the arm is not the issue. It’s coming from somewhere else.
So, many times we discussed physical examination is so important here in the clinic. Obviously, we need to figure out where the pain generator is. And if you can imagine pinching of a nerve somewhere else that relates to pain down an arm or a leg. We’ve all heard of sciatica. That’s a radiating type pain issue, that pain down into the arm. We’ll take a look at the neck. And through our physical examination with orthopedic tests, range of motion, your history obviously, we can start to make a determination if there’s compression or pinching of a nerve in your neck.
So, the nerves exit the spine out of these holes. There could be compression on that nerve. The nerve that innervates some portion of your arm. And in turn, you could have the radiating shooting, numbness, tingling down into your arm as well. Your history also helps me, like I said. If you were to complain of a dull achy tightness soreness down into your arm, that doesn’t really sound like a neurological or a like a nerve root type issue. Shooting, sharpness, numbness, tingling. Those types of complaints are more suggestive of a nerve root irritation potentially in your neck, your arm pitch shoulder, somewhere else upstream that relates to that.
From my exam if we determine that it’s potentially an issue in your neck, the disc could be the culprit. And if that disc will bulge or herniate and compresses the nerve, that’s what could lead to that pain. From there, I might recommend MRI, and that would give us a very clear picture of the extent of the disc injury. And from there we could make the appropriate recommendations.
We also could have radiating pain from your wrist. I’m sure you’ve heard of carpal tunnel. There’s irritation of the median nerve, and you may feel that ulnar nerve irritation from your elbow. Once again, irritation in your elbow, you may feel it downstream. So, radiating pain essentially means there’s radicular or shooting pain down an area which typically stems from somewhere else.
Now, treatment options for radiating pain can vary. Obviously, depending on the severity of the condition, we’re going to make the appropriate recommendations. Chiropractic therapy, a good option to reduce irritation to the nerve root. Sometimes medications, whether it’s a steroid or some form of anti-inflammatory could reduce irritation around the nerve and hopefully resolve the arm pain as well. In more serious cases, pain management, injection therapy. Once again, reducing the irritation on the nerve root. And then in extreme circumstances, surgical intervention may be warranted with severe compression of the nerve.
And essentially what we’re trying to do in any forms of those treatment is decompress or reduce the irritation of the nerve root. And then associated with all of those options, physical therapy is typically a very safe option to develop a little more stability, strength around that area so there’s limited reoccurrence and the problem doesn’t come back. So just to quickly review, radiating pain, you might hear it as referred pain or radicular type pain. It’s a shooting, sharp numbness, tingling type pain that travels down one of the extremities, typically associated with some other area.
So my suggestion is always with any type of this type of condition, get checked out. Make sure you get the appropriate diagnosis and treatment plan. Okay. And then please at all costs, don’t ignore these types of symptoms. These are things that could turn into a little bit more serious. You may potentially develop some weakness and other neurological symptoms. And like we always say here, Tulsa Spine and Rehab, “Keep moving.”