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Arm Throbbing

Your Arm Throbbing Might Not Be an Arm Problem

Get Help With Arm Throbbing

Patients are often surprised when they find out that a symptom they’re having in one body part really has nothing to do with that body part. The arm is a good example of this. If your arm sometimes feels tight accompanied by random jumping, or pulsations, in the muscle, this arm throbbing may actually have nothing to do with your arm. In fact, it’s more likely that your arm throbbing is due to a nerve issue in your neck. In addition, you might not have any neck symptoms at all. How is this possible?

First, you need to understand that the nerves that supply the arm muscles branch off of the cervical spine in the neck. Let’s review this further.

Irritated Neck Nerves Can Cause Arm Throbbing

In many patients, irritated neck nerves don’t present as a symptom in the neck. In fact, sometimes the only symptoms of irritated nerves in the neck occur in the arm muscles, as either tightness, throbbing, or both. While the arm throbbing might be frustrating as it’s happening, you might not think a whole lot about it, especially if it only happens on occasion. However, ignoring it is not a good idea since it is often a warning signal of a bigger problem in the neck.

These body connections occur all the way back to when we were a fetus, as the neck, shoulder, and arm all grow out of each other along with the wiring from the neck and into the arm. So when a neck nerve becomes irritated or injured, this can present as symptoms, such as throbbing, pain, tightness, and so on, anywhere along the nerve branch from the shoulder all the way to the fingers. Watch Dr. Centeno’s video below to learn more:

Irritated Neck Nerves Needs To Be Addressed

When left unaddressed, nerve issues in the neck can cause more serious arm problems, such as tears in tendons (e.g., tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow). Why the tendons? Muscles attach to and move the bones via the tendons. The nerves tell muscles to move, and when the nerves are irritated, slight malfunctions occur in the muscles, shutting down part of the muscle. This creates those tight trigger points, which pull on the tendon attachments between muscle and bone. This causes tendonitis, which can worsen over time and even lead to those tendon tears.

We’ve seen patients with chronic tennis elbow, for example who actually have a pinched nerve in the neck. While their symptoms present as a malfunction in the forearm muscles, the pinched nerve is at the C6 or 7 (cervical spine level 6 or 7) area of the neck as these are the nerves that supply the muscles in the forearm. These patients usually believe they have an elbow problem, when in reality, their elbow problem is just the warning flag, signaling for us to check the neck. This is something your interventional orthopedic physician is well-trained to recognize, and he or she will trace and treat the source of the arm throbbing, not just the arm itself. It wouldn’t do you much good for us to treat your tennis elbow, for example, if the source of the problem is an irritated nerve in your neck.

Address Arm Throbbing (and Neck Nerves) with Orthobiologics

Continuing to look at tennis elbow, typically a surgical treatment involves cutting the elbow tendon to release arm tightness. Knowing now that a nerve in the neck is often the culprit for arm issues, we probably don’t have to explain why this surgery would be a bad idea. It does explain, however, why many patients will still struggle with pain, tightness, or throbbing in the same location even after surgery: the surgery didn’t address the true cause of the tennis elbow.

Even if arm throbbing, pain, and so on really are due to tennis elbow or some other arm problem, research has shown surgery for tennis elbow is no better than no surgery. However, in our experience, orthobiologics, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) using the patient’s own platelets, have been effective for treating tennis elbow and other arm tendons for most patients. If neck nerves are the root problem, these can also be treated with injections of platelet lysate around the irritated nerves.

Arm throbbing – especially arm throbbing at night – might be irritating, but more often than not, it’s not a sign that you have an arm problem—in most cases, it’s telling you to have your neck checked. Most importantly, don’t let a surgeon cut into your arm without making sure you have a thorough exam of your neck first. Also make sure you see an interventional orthopedics physician to find out what your nonsurgical options are for your arm throbbing and your irritated neck nerve.

What Else Could Be Causing Your Throbbing Arm?

Brachial Plexus Injury

The brachial plexus involves five nerve roots from C5 to T1. Brachial plexus injuries can vary greatly from mild to severe. They have multiple causes and often occur concurrently with other injuries; that makes their diagnosis complicated.  However, an injury to this plexus of nerves can affect the movement of the entire arm and forearm. Let’s discuss all the details of brachial plexus injury, including its symptoms, diagnosis, and how it’s treated.

Read More About Brachial Plexus Injury

Calcific Tendonitis of the Rotator Cuff

Calcific tendonitis of the rotator cuff is a relatively common yet frequently misunderstood shoulder condition. Characterized by the deposition of calcium crystals within the tendons of the rotator cuff, this ailment can lead to significant pain and limited mobility for the affected individual. While it often strikes seemingly out of the blue, its origins and progression are rooted in a combination of biological processes, genetics, and, potentially, lifestyle factors. This article aims to delve deep into the intricacies of this condition, shedding light on its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures. This article aims to delve deep into the…

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Cervical Radiculopathy

Common Cervical Radiculopathy symptoms include neck pain, arm pain, shoulder pain radiating down arm to fingers, numbness, tingling, and weakness. Cervical Radiculopathy is a clinical condition in which a nerve or nerves in your neck become irritated or compressed. It is also known as ” a pinched nerve,” The causes are discussed below. It can affect individuals of any age with peak prominence between ages 40-50 years of age. Cervical Radiculopathy is due to spinal nerve inflammation, irritation, or compression. The most common causes of Cervical Radiculopathy are: Disc Injury – The disc is an important shock absorber. Unfortunately, it is susceptible to injury.

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EDS in Children

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) refers to a group of disorders that affect the body’s connective tissue including skin, tendons, and ligaments. It is a hereditary disorder which means you are born with it. EDS has many different signs and symptoms which can vary significantly from patient to patient. It most commonly affects the skin, joints, and blood vessels. The estimated prevalence for all EDS varies between 1/10,000 and 1/25,000. The three most common types of EDS are: Hypermobile, Classic, and Vascular. We have used these skills and knowledge to treat the loose ligaments commonly found in EDS in children. Treatment options include bone marrow concentrate (BMC) and PRP.

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Facet Joint Syndrome

Injury or inflammation of the cervical facet can led to neck, shoulder and headache pain – called “cervical facet syndrome.” Cervical facet syndrome largely involves a joint in the posterior aspect of the cervical spine. It functions to provide stability and guide motion. cervical facet joint injection for cervical facet syndrome Cervical facet pain is common in patients who have sustained a whiplash injury, trauma to the neck or undergone cervical fusion. Physical examination is typically significant for restriction in range of motion along with pain. Each joint has a distinct referral pattern illustrated below. The Centeno-Schultz Clinic are experts at diagnosing and treating cervical facet dysfunction. Injury to the joint is not commonly detected by conventional radiographic studies.

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Facet Synovial Cyst

A facet cyst, also known as a synovial cyst, is a fluid-filled sac that forms in the facet joint of the spine. The facet joints are small joints located between the vertebrae of the spine that provide stability and enable movement. Facet cysts typically develop due to degeneration and wear and tear of the facet joint, which can cause the joint capsule to stretch and weaken. This weakened capsule can then allow synovial fluid, which normally lubricates and nourishes the joint, to leak out and form a cyst. Facet cysts can cause various symptoms such as back pain, leg pain…

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Herniated Cervical Disc

Cervical discs, also known as intervertebral discs of the cervical spine, are the specialized structures located between the vertebrae in the neck region. These discs play a crucial role in providing cushioning, flexibility, and support to the cervical spine. Structure: Cervical discs have a unique structure consisting of two main components: Nucleus Pulposus: The nucleus pulposus is the central, gel-like core of the disc. It is composed of a jelly-like substance with a high water content, giving it a soft and elastic nature. The nucleus pulposus is responsible for absorbing and distributing forces acting on…

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Lateral Epicondylitis / Tennis Elbow

Lateral epicondylitis otherwise known as tennis elbow is an overuse injury involving the extensor muscles that originate on the bony prominence (epicondyle) on the outside (lateral) aspect of the elbow. It is more properly termed tendinosis that specifically involves the origin of the extensor carpi radialis brevis muscle. In a study, Nirschl and Pettrone attributed the cause of lateral epicondylitis to be tearing in the origin of the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle (1). The extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle originates from the lateral epicondyle. It functions to move the wrist so that the hand moves away from the palm and towards the thumb.

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Medial Epicondylitis / Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer’s elbow involves tears in the ulnar collateral ligament and pain or soreness on the inside of the elbow. The bony bump you feel there is the medial epicondyle of the humerus (upper arm bone). There are five forearm muscles that attach at this point, all of which are involved in helping to flex or rotate the forearm and wrist. Pain can get worse when you throw a ball, grip a dumbbell, turn a screwdriver, and other movements that involve the fingers, hand, wrist, and/or elbow. Tennis elbow is similar, however, it refers to the outside of the elbow, at the lateral epicondyle.

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Radial Nerve Palsy

The radial nerve is the largest nerve in the upper limb. It starts in the shoulder and travels through the forearm to the back of the wrist. It has nerve fibers from C5, C6, C7, C8, and T1 nerve roots. Radial nerve palsy = damage to the radial nerve which affects the muscles the nerve goes to, creating weakness in those muscles, clinically presenting with wrist drop….the inability to extend the wrist. But the radial nerve innervates many muscles of the upper arm and forearm. When injured, nerve recovery varies widely taking weeks, months, and in some cases years to recover. Addressing the underlying…

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Spinal Instability

Spinal instability is a condition that occurs when the spinal column is not able to maintain its normal alignment and function under normal loads. It can be caused by various factors such as trauma, degenerative changes, infections, tumors, or congenital abnormalities. In a stable spine, the bones, discs, ligaments, and muscles work together to support and protect the spinal cord and nerve roots. However, in an unstable spine, the structures that support the spine may be damaged or weakened. This can lead to abnormal movement and excessive stress on the spinal cord and nerves. In most cases, bone and joint problems…

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Thoracic Cyst

Cysts are abnormal, closed sacs that contain fluid, gas or semi-fluid material. They can develop in various parts of the body. They can vary in size from very small to large and can be located within organs, tissues or bones.  Cysts can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Most cysts are benign. They occur due to a number of different reasons that include obstruction, infection, chronic inflammation, instability or cellular abnormalities.  So, thoracic spine cysts are abnormal, closed sacs that occur in the spine below the neck and above the low back.

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Thoracic Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is a clinical condition that refers to the gradual deterioration of the discs located in the thoracic spine and the associated symptoms. Pain, weakness, muscle spasms, and restriction in range of motion are common. Degenerative disc disease can occur at each level of the spine: cervical, thoracic, and lumbar. Studies have demonstrated that degenerative disc disease in the thoracic spine most commonly occurs in the third to fourth decades (1) and occurs most frequently in the lower thoracic segments from T7-T12. Thoracic degenerative disc…

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Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The thoracic outlet is an area around the collar bone where the nerves that come from your neck meet up with the blood vessels from your heart and together supply the entire upper extremity (shoulder and arm). These blood vessels (subclavian artery and vein) and nerves (brachial plexus) travel from the base of your neck to your armpit (axilla) and are considered the “thoracic outlet”. Now that you know what the thoracic outlet is, what is thoracic outlet syndrome? Simply listening to a patient’s history and completing a physical examination is all that is needed to diagnose TOS. But more involved imaging such as X-rays…

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