The majority of arm and leg nerve pain comes from 4 muscle and skeletal conditions, which are the disc and nervous system causing radiculitis, facet joint pain called sclerotogenous referral, local arm and leg entrapment, and myofascial trigger points.
- Disc and nervous system nerve pain follows dermatomal patterns to some degree. A dermatome is an area of skin in which sensory nerves come from a single spinal nerve root.
- Nerve pain from bones, muscle, ligaments and spinal joints
- Local entrapments follow peripheral nerve patterns like the median nerve with carpal tunnel where it causes nerve pain in the thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger.
- Myofascial trigger points follow patterns that can be created from pressure on injured muscles.
Typically the pain generators follow commonly seen patterns with the nerve radiation patterns.
This may seem confusing, but with trained hands, your source of arm and leg nerve pain can be isolated to one or multiple of these causes.
Radiculitis also referred to as radicular pain, is painful inflammation along a spinal nerve’s pathway due to pressure on the nerve. Pressure related to inflammation on a nerve that causes radicular pain can sometimes be connected by several spinal conditions, such as a herniated disc or osteoarthritis.
The following are the types of radiculitis:
- Cervical radiculitis – This refers to an inflamed nerve in the cervical spine (neck), which consists of seven vertebrae beginning at the base of the skull.
- Thoracic radiculitis – This refers to an inflamed nerve in the thoracic spine, which is the upper and mid-back.
- Lumbar radiculitis – This refers to an inflamed nerve in the lumbar spine, which is the lower back.
Radiculitis can affect the extremities and can be accompanied by tingling, numbness, and weakness.
In most cases, radiculitis symptoms can be managed with a combination of non-invasive treatments, such as chiropractic and rehabilitation exercises.
Sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers can form after injuries or overuse. These sensitive areas are called trigger points. A trigger point in a muscle can cause pain throughout the muscle. When this pain persists and worsens, doctors call it myofascial pain syndrome. Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder.
In this condition, pressure on sensitive points in your muscles (trigger points) causes pain in the muscle and sometimes in seemingly unrelated parts of your body. This is called referred pain. This syndrome typically occurs after a muscle has been contracted repetitively. This can be caused by repetitive motions used in jobs or hobbies or by stress-related muscle tension. While nearly everyone has experienced muscle tension pain, the discomfort associated with myofascial pain syndrome persists or worsens.
Signs and symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome may include:
- Deep, aching pain in a muscle
- Pain that persists or worsens
- A tender knot in a muscle
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
An overlooked and often misunderstood pain pattern that follows the distribution of sclerotomes (muscle, fascia, and bone). Sensory manifestations of clinical and experimental muscle pain are seen as diffuse aching pain in the muscle, pain referred to distant somatic structures, and modifications in superficial and deep tissue sensibility in the painful areas.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is caused by pressure on the median nerve. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway surrounded by bones and ligaments on the palm side of your hand. When the median nerve is compressed the symptoms can include:
- Weakness in the hand and arm
The anatomy of your wrist, health problems and possibly repetitive hand motions can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome. Proper treatment usually relieves the tingling and numbness and restores wrist and hand function.
Cubital Tunnel Syndrome, also known as ulnar neuropathy, is caused by increased pressure on the ulnar nerve, which passes close to the skin's surface in the area of the elbow commonly known as the "funny bone." You're more likely to develop cubital tunnel syndrome if you:
- Repeatedly lean on your elbow, especially on a hard surface
- Bend your elbow for sustained periods, such as while talking on a cell phone or sleeping with your hand crooked under your pillow
Early symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome include:
- Pain and numbness in the elbow
- Tingling, especially in the ring and little fingers
More severe symptoms of Cubital Tunnel Syndrome include:
- Weakness affecting the ring and little fingers
- Decreased ability to pinch the thumb and little finger
- Decreased overall hand grip
- Muscle wasting in the hand
- Claw-like deformity of the hand
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) are compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.
Common causes of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome include:
- Physical trauma from a car accident
- Repetitive injuries from job- or sports-related activities
- Certain anatomical defects (such as having an extra rib)
Sometimes doctors can't determine the cause of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. Treatment for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome usually involves physical therapy and pain relief measures. Most people improve with these approaches.
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