Brachial neuralgia is a radiating pain in the shoulder and upper arm caused by damage to a nerve in the neck. When it occurs in the left arm, it may be mistaken as a heart attack symptom, causing great concern in the patient. There are treatment options available, and a patient may meet with physical therapists, orthopedic surgeons, and neurologists in the process of evaluating and treating the pain. It is important to be aware that some treatments may take time to work, and the process of finding a solution can sometimes be lengthy.
In patients with brachial neuralgia, the nerve may be pinched by one of the structures in the neck, or it could be damaged as a result of infection, inflammation, or progressive neurological disease. The pain may be sharp and stabbing and can come and go, depending on the cause. Many patients find it severe and intolerable, and usually seek treatment quickly with the goal of getting relief.
When a patient presents with brachial neuralgia, a medical evaluation will be conducted to find out what is going on. Medical imaging studies can be helpful, as can lab tests. This information will be used to explore possible treatments. These may include anti-inflammatory drugs, pain management medications, and physical manipulation like decompression and stretching to see if a pinched or trapped nerve can be freed. Electrical stimulation of the nerve to interrupt pain signals is sometimes an option. Surgery may also be considered.
This condition can be frustratingly elusive in some patients. When a nerve is pinched, the pressure may wax and wane, leading to situations where patients sometimes experience pain and sometimes feel fine. Measures like stretching and spinal adjustments performed by a chiropractor may resolve the pain, and in other cases, it may return. Adequate treatment should include pain management, and some patients may also benefit from counseling if they are experiencing depression or frustration as a result of their shoulder pain.
It is important to receive treatment for brachial neuralgia, as it can become more severe when it is not treated. There is a possibility it may be linked with another medical problem in need of evaluation and treatment, and catching this condition early may provide patients with more options for treatment and long term management. Chronic pain conditions can also have deleterious effects on mental health, and patients should be sure to report changes in their mental health to their doctors.