Post-Accident Arm Pain

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Dear Medical team,
I was in an automobile accident last week, and since that time I have had numbness down my left arm and shoulder pain. My arm didn’t hit anything during the accident, but my neck jerked back and hit the head rest. My friend, who is studying to be a doctor, said that a neck problem could cause shoulder and arm pain. What do you think?

Answer:
Without examining you, It is difficult to speak specifically to your situation, but generally speaking, whenever a person has a cervical spine (neck) trauma, there is always the possibility that they will present with upper extremity symptoms. All the nerves that go into the arm come from the neck. When a person has an impingement in the neck due to a whiplash, or disc injury, often times a person will experience symptoms similar to what you have. In some cases when a patient goes through a course of Chiropractic rehabilitation, their upper extremity pain will lessen, and they are more aware of neck symptoms, that were not apparent at the onset. Patients sometimes say “it feels like the pain has moved into my neck. This is usually a good phenomemum, and we call this “centralization”, when a person is more aware of pain coming from it’s origin. It is also not uncommon for an individual to have a shoulder impingement syndrome and or a brachial plexis injury and present with pain, numbness and tingling in the upper extremity.

An examination will help delineate whether your symptoms are originating from your neck or shoulder. Depending upon your presentation, it may be appropriate to order an MRI of the neck and /or shoulder, to determine the extent of the soft tissue compromise. In any case, I suggest that you have a thorough spinal and orthopedic evaluation to determine your current status and obtain some council regarding the best approach to bring your problem to resolution.

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