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Shoulder blade and arm pain with arm numbness.

Kevin_OKKevin_O Posts: 4
edited 05/13/2014 - 3:48 AM in Upper Back Pain, Thoracic


I am hoping to find some answers or clues to what has been going on with an on-going issue. I'll try to summarize below.

I have had lower back pain and stiffness since I was in my 20s, but this issue with my lower back is fairly new.


*Past 6 months: Tingling in my fingertips (all four on my left hand) and pain and numbness at the inside of my upper, left arm and mild pain in my left shoulder blade.

*Past 2 weeks: Over the course of the day while at work (computer technician, no heavy lifting) the above symptoms increased quite a bit. I went home and was feeling a litter better and walked on my treadmill for about 40 minutes and then jogged for about 3 minutes. Did some back stretches afterwords.

The next morning I woke up feeling like someone stabbed me in the back (left shoulder blade) with a knife. Upon sitting up in bed the symptoms increased dramatically. This was my routine for about 10 days. The only thing that I have found to relieve the pain is to walk for 10-30 minutes.

The past 3-4 days the pain has slowly gotten better but is still a big issue when getting up from lying down.

Today, while sitting at my desk at work I have numbness in my arm while working on a computer out if front of me and while sitting. That almost entirely goes away if I pull my arm back away from my work. It is also relieved if I go for a walk.

My doctor (in January before it got much worse) said it was a pinched nerve in my neck (around C6-8 I believe he said). Monday I saw him again and he did some strength tests (I did fine) and movement test (I did fine) and he cracked my neck and upper back. He said that probably wouldn't do much but he wanted to make sure everything was aligned. I asked if he thought it was a disc issue and he said he wasn’t ready to say that. He said I have spasms and inflammation and prescribed a muscle relaxer and anti-inflammatory.

Any feedback on what may be going on would be much appreciated.





  • Kevin,
    Ask the doctor about the possibility of a scan to rule out spinal injury.
    I'm not young enough to know everything - Oscar Wilde
  • Kevin, I would have to agree with mickkr about getting a mri done, do not settle for just an x-ray, an x-ray will not show soft tissue or disc issues. I have issue similar to yours, and mine seem to derive at least partially from nerve damage from the C4 - C7 area of my neck. Currently get the nerves burned off (radio-frequency ablation) every 4 months to try and keep the pain in check from my neck. Do not give up if the scan does not show anything that the doctors think would cause your issues, go see a pain specialist (do your research on clinics first) and talk to them, there are things they can do to help pinpoint where your issues are coming from.
    Posterior L4-S1 fusion/implementation
    Anterior C5-T1 fusion/implementation with continuing nerve pain issues RFA procedures every 4 months to help w/pain
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  • Thank you for the replies. I am currently doing physical therapy (past two weeks) but it has not really changed anything. Not much has changed since my first post but I do have one new symptom. The skin on the top of my hand, mostly around my index finger knuckle and part of my hand has gone numb. The tip of the same finger has been about 50% numb for quite some time now.

    If the PT cannot help me then I will next push for the MRI. I have not even had an xray ordered yet. If it is suggested I will push for the MRI. Thanks again and I will try to remember to post updates sooner.
  • Hi Kevin.
    Has you doctor or physical therapist mentioned the possibility you are suffering from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)? Your symptoms are certainly consistent with this diagnosis and TOS should be a differential diagnosis your doctor is exploring. In basic terms TOS occurs when the bundle of nerves from your lower neck (cervical spine) get compressed by the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) our your upper back and/or shoulder region.

    You mentioned your symptoms are decreased when you get up and walk around or pull your shoulders back. This tells me that your sitting posture is contributing to your symptoms. Chances are you are slouching and/or rounding your shoulders when your sit, commonly know as bad posture. Ask you therapist to evaluate your sitting posture and make suggestions on how you can improve it. Also light stretching and applying an ice pack (15-20 minutes duration) to your lower neck, upper back and around your shoulder should help diminish your symptoms.

    If none of these suggestions improves your condition then I agree with appengineer, for these type of symptoms of 6+ months duration you need an MRI.
  • Kevin_OKKevin_O Posts: 4
    edited 06/14/2016 - 1:20 PM
    Thank you for your reply Ilyne!

    I saw a different PT this morning and after reading a bit about TOS, it sounds like he was investing that possibility. He did mention that the issue might be vascular. He had me lay flat on my back and he pushed on my collar bones. No issues with the right side but pushing on my left collar bone did increase pain in my left shoulder blade.

    He also pulled upward (toward my head) along my neck with his fingertips while on my back and said that I definitely have some muscle tightness.

    While standing, he also checked my pulse with my left arm and neck in different positions and said that my pulse was weakened when my arm was straight out to my side and bent up at the elbow.

    He gave me two new exercises in addition to what I have been doing. I will add rows with a TheraBand and will pull my shoulders back for several reps with no band.

    I recently discovered that if I sit with my back very straight with no back support the tingling in my left arm slowly comes on. If I reach forward the tingling worsens. If I tilt my head to the right, the tingling fades away. There is no change if I tilt to the left. The tingling also fades if I sit back in my chair with good or bad posture.

    There is a definite connection between reaching forward and the tingling in my left arm. I can bring on the tingling by reaching forward and make it easy up when I lower my arm.

    Thanks again. My next apt. with the same PT is next Monday. I will mention TSO him and reply back.

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  • Kevin,

    I too, suffer from the shoulder, arm and hand pain with numbness. I had a cervical laminectomy in 2008 and recently I was diagnosed with ostephytes (bone spurs) due to my cervical stenosis with myelopathy. I would recommend seeing a neurosurgeon, request an EMG/NCS (electromylogram and nerve conduction study) This will help determine some nerve damage but it could also lead the way to other tests that could determine spinal cord impingement. I know a lot about this as I was recently diagnosed with incomplete tetraplegia (C3-C6) with Nuerogenic bowel and bladder. In May, I will be undergoing a Costotransversectomy, T6-T7 discectomy with a T4-T9 fusion. I wish you luck because you sound like what I started with but everyone's details are somewhat different.
  • Kevin,

    I experience the exact same pain as you, and this prompted a Thoracic Spine MRI, the results of which I just received on Friday. I do have two small herniated discs, one barely sitting on the cord, but no work from neurologist yet (it's the weekend). I am also in PT but have been unable to attend as it has been aggravating the condition. Same thing for me ... they were working out the knots from the spasms but the pain was so severe afterwards that I couldn't go to work. No bueno. So, I would suggest further imagine esp. considering that I, too, was told it may be TOS. My PT did the exact same tests with me ... weakened pulse, though neurologist could not repeat this finding. Let me know how it goes. Best of luck. I'll be in touch.
    Suzanne Hill

    Keep your head up ... you'll see better days : )
  • Did you ever get the issue solved with your arm. I’m having the same issue. My whole arm, all the way to the outside area of my hand (pinky, ring, middle fingers), goes numb and tingles when my head is looking down, and slightly to the right. I’ve been trying different therapies for it, but no luck yet. I will be trying Prolotherapy and maybe acupuncture. I may try high doses of Vitamin C (nearly toxic levels through an IV) to take down all the inflammation. Supposedly, this treatment has been very effective with some doctors in CA. My neck swells up really bad now, and I’m stuck taking heavy duty pain RX to breakthrough the pain and get rest/sleep.

    Also, I have an appointment with a neurosurgeon and back surgeon since this may be a nerve that's being pinched in the anterior region, or on the front side of my spine. Which means Prolotherapy may not work since the injections my not be able to reach the affected area, the front side of my spine which means the dr. would have to go through my throat area to reach the area.

    I truly hope you’ve resolved the issue with your neck/arm. At least that will give me some hope, and maybe you can recommend what worked for you.

    Thanks and Good Luck with everything.
  • sandisandi Posts: 6,269
    edited 10/04/2013 - 4:19 AM
    have you been evaluated for ulnar nerve entrapment? It sounds like that might be the problem , rather than a cervical problem. I have it in both arms, and hands, it the symptoms sound exactly as you are describing. Prolotherapy is not going to help that. A simple emg test to test the conduction of the nerves will tell you if it is ulnar nerve problems.
    See a neuro .
  • I was so relieved to find this thread and find some people that suffer the same symptoms as me - right shoulder and neck pain with tingling in right arm and fingers - and find out about what steps to take and which to avoid. I am making an appointment with a neurosurgeon on Monday because this situation is unbearable. Can't sit, can't stand, can't walk. All I can do is lay down and the situation has become incredibly painful, prohibitive and frustrating. Thanks to all. I have had this before, three or four times in my life, but it's always gone away after a few weeks. Not so this time however. So next week is the time to stare it in the eye and get it out of my life!!
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