Pain involving the upper extremity can be due to a variety of factors. Some of them involve entrapment of nerves because of degenerative changes, herniated discs or bone spurs in the cervical spine. Other causes of arm pain can be due to damage of nerves from compression or entrapment anywhere along the path of the nerves in the upper extremity. Some examples are brachial plexus injury, entrapment of nerves in the cubital tunnel or carpal tunnel. Some patients may experience sustained arm pain after surgery or due to complex regional pain syndrome. A patient history, physical examination, imaging, EMG, and nerve conduction studies can help in establishing a diagnosis.
Treatment is usually guided by the underlying cause and can involve physical therapy, over the counter or prescription medications. Certain procedures such as nerve blocks, stellate ganglion blocks and cervical epidural steroid injections can help in alleviating symptoms based on the underlying cause. Some patients may be candidates for spinal cord stimulation therapy based on the cause of their symptoms and if they have failed several conservative measures and continue to suffer from chronic pain.