My name is LISA and I am a 40-year-old woman with pain concentrated in my left shoulder and radiating to my upper arm and armpit area. I also have numbness and tingling traveling down my left arm to my little finger. This pain and numbness intensifies on movement of the shoulder such as lifting my arm across my body, sitting, sleeping and moving It also is very uncomfortable to sleep at night. I can not lie on my left side as it causes increased pain and numbness to the arm. When lying on my right side, it will be numb and cause pain. The most comfortable position is lying on my back, I can not sleep on my back, have always slept in fetal position on either side.
I am not a doctor or even a medical professional. I just have a lot of problems and end up going to docs and getting lots of tests and treatments. I also have a minor in biology and went to graduate school for neuroscience for two years before running out of funds and having to get a real job. :) Although I know a lot, I'm not even close to being a doctor. I can offer up suggestions and info, but I can't diagnose or give advice. I can only offer information. However, the primary info I would offer is to go to the doctor and get x-rays and a contrast MRI sooner rather than later.
The nerve root that causes the pain that you are describing is around C8. That is where the ulnar nerve comes out of the spine. C8 is the nerve that runs down the back of your forearm and down the outside of your arm and into your pinky. However, you also describe pain in your armpit. I don’t think that C8 does that. That is more likely T1. C8 and T1 are right next to each other, so I it is possible that both are affected. However, the pain could also be caused by a problem right in your shoulder rather than a nerve root. Many times, it is a combination of those two things. Problems with your shoulder can cause the muscles on that affected side to become tense. The added tension can cause the muscles around the spine to tighten up and cause pressure on the nerve roots. In addition, the tension in the shoulder or the inflammation in the shoulder can apply pressure to the nerves as they run through the shoulder.
I had that kind of pain for a while and I get it still occasionally. I have many problems, but for the problem that you are describing, the thing that helped me was traction therapy on my neck. You can read in another post that I just posted to another thread that was the ice cream headache all over one. Anyway, the physical therapist will have you lie down on your back and they sit at the head of the table and massage your neck muscles to relax them while pulling on your head at the same time. It takes pressure off the nerve roots and relieves the pain that you are describing.
I often have trouble with the C8 nerve root causing pain in my right arm. It's a nasty pain, I know. For a while, the only way I could get comfortable was to lie on my back with the pillows adjusted just right under my neck. However, after a few weeks of getting the traction therapy 2-3 times a week for about 30 minutes, the pain let up. Now I only get it occasionally and haven't had it occur again at a level that would require the physical therapy again. My problem with that nerve root started after having had a bad fall in judo practice. My judo practice partner did a firefighter’s throw and didn't follow through adequately to keep me from landing on my neck. That was about 15 years ago, and I still have problems with it. However, aside from my digression there...as I was saying, the best treatment was the traction therapy that I got.
It took about 5 weeks of 2-3 times a week for 30 minutes per appointment to get it to let up for good, but it finally did let up. For a day after the therapy, even early on, the pain relief was amazingly effective. Then the next day it would start to return. As the therapy went on, the period of relief post treatment would get longer and longer until my neck was just much better. However, it did take about two weeks before the pain in my arm let up. That was probably because it took awhile for the inflammation in the nerve to let up after having the pressure removed from it.
Of course, you need to go to the doctor and have them check you out, do a contrast MRI, EMG, x-rays, and all that jazz, but if after all that they suggest physical therapy; I'd jump on it and take it because it really can help. I did actually finally have to get a steroid injection in my shoulder because I have RA and have damage to my acromio-clavicular joint and tendonitis in my shoulder. The doc said that he could only do that one more time because of the damage that repeated steroid injections could cause. About 2 days after I got the injection, my shoulder started feeling better and was much better about a week after the injection. I have found that it is a very good idea to keep a log of the pain; noting when it is worse and what activity preceded the worsening. Also, note what positions make it feel better, etc etc. Write all of that stuff down and take it with you to the doctor. Oftentimes when we go to the doctor, we don’t remember everything. In addition, the doctors don’t always ask the right questions and so don’t get the right information from us. If you keep a log and write it all down for the doctor, it cuts to the chase and the doctor will have all the information they need in order to know what direction to take more quickly. The document will also be a good reference for the doctor when he or she needs to review your case. It is also helpful to put your whole health history in a document to provide to the doctor. This should include family health history and your own health history.
Ha, I always meant to write a book eventually. It looks like I finally did. :) I’m sorry that I went on and on, but I am familiar with the pain that you are having and just wanted to share the information that I have with hopes that the information can help you get relief sooner than later.
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