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When upper back or shoulder discomfort is accompanied with arm numbness, the cause could be a condition in the neck or shoulder that inflames a nerve that runs down the arm. Some patients may feel worsening upper back discomfort and arm numbness throughout the day, whilst others may have severe symptoms when they wake up in the morning.
Here are six possible explanations.
Herniated cervical disc
Inflammatory proteins can leak out of a herniated cervical disc and inflame adjacent muscles, joints, and/or nerve roots. When a cervical nerve root gets inflamed, it can cause radicular discomfort, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the shoulder, arm, and/or hand. If a disc herniates in the lower cervical spine, discomfort in the shoulder blade area may be noticed, along with numbness that may extend into the arm or hand.
When the intervertebral foramen between adjacent vertebrae narrows, a nerve root might get impinged as it exits the spinal canal, a condition known as foraminal stenosis. Foraminal stenosis can be induced by bone spurs (osteophytes) or by other degenerative processes in the spine. If the lower cervical spine’s nerve root becomes pinched or irritated, it can cause discomfort, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness in the shoulder, arm, hand, and/or fingers.
A stinger is often caused by trauma to the neck or shoulder, such as a sports collision or a tumble. A stinger injury occurs when the brachial plexus (a collection of nerves that run through the shoulder and down the arm) becomes overstretched after a collision, resulting in scorching agony that begins in the neck or shoulder and travels down the arm. It may also be accompanied with arm or hand numbness or weakness. Stingers typically last a few seconds or minutes, although they might endure days or longer.
Thoracic outlet syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) occurs when nerves or blood arteries in the thoracic outlet, which is located between the upper rib and collarbone, become squeezed. Pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness can occur anywhere from the neck and shoulder down into the arm and hand due to this uncommon illness. As a result, someone with TOS may experience shoulder pain and arm numbness. Overhead work may aggravate shoulder pain and arm numbness/weakness. During normal activities, the arm and hand may also get more readily weary.
Neuritis of the brachial plexus
Brachial neuritis, also known as Parsonage-Turner syndrome, occurs when the brachial plexus (a network of nerves that runs from the shoulder and down the arm) becomes inflamed. This condition usually has a quick start and causes pain, tingling, numbness, and/or paralysis anywhere along the nerve pathways from the neck, upper back, shoulder, and down into the arm and hand. Brachial neuritis can last from a few hours to several days. It can continue considerably longer or become permanent in rare circumstances.
It is commonly known that stress, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other psychological illnesses can cause physical symptoms that mirror the conditions listed above. Stress should always be considered as a possible cause of symptoms such as upper back discomfort and related arm numbness.
Any form of pain that is accompanied by numbness or weakness necessitates a doctor’s visit. A medical professional’s precise diagnosis can help decide the most efficient treatment for comfort and recovery.
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