If you suffer from neck and arm pain, you might wonder, exactly what it is that causes all that pain. Where the pain comes from depends on the type of pain that you have – is it chronic pain that has gotten worse over time, or is it extreme pain that began suddenly?
Sudden Pain: Sudden pain in the neck can be caused by a pulled neck muscle, or it could be more severe. In many cases, the pain occurs due to the rupture or herniation of a cervical disc. When this happens, nerve roots in the neck are often pinched and irritated, causing them to become inflamed, and in turn causing the patient to experience a lot of pain.
Chronic Pain: Pain that gets worse over time without getting better can be caused by chronic progressive arthritis with degenerative changes in the discs. Over time, this leads to increased pressure on nerve roots. As the pressure and irritation of the nerve roots increases, so does the pain that is experienced.
To determine the upper back pain causes, your doctor will examine you and probably use a form of imaging, such as an MRI, to look at your vertebrae and discs for evidence of disc bulging, degradation, or compression on nerves.
In many cases, treatment of either type of pain consists of watchful waiting, activity modification, physical therapy, orthotics, spinal blocks, and anti-inflammatory medications. These treatments often help resolve the pain over time. In some cases though, these treatments are not enough. The result of not relieving the pressure on the nerve in a timely manner could result in the loss of function in particular muscle groups, making surgery necessary.
If you experience pain that is severe enough to interfere with daily activities or you have chronic pain that continues to get worse, talk to your doctor about treatment options.