Shoulder-Arm Pain

Anatomically complex region

Another frequent pain syndrome is the so-called shoulder-arm syndrome. The intersection of complex nerve structures leading from the neck over the shoulder to the arm is the cause for this. The absolute muscular stabilization of the shoulders makes this anatomically complex situation even more susceptible to structural and functional disruptions.


The pain is sometimes acute, occasionally existing for years (chronic). People of all ages can be affected. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Bursitis (particularly the Bursa subacromialis)
  • Tendinitis (particularly tendinitis of the long head of the bicep)
  • Stiffening of the shoulders (so-called frozen shoulder)
  • Muscle pain (on muscle fibers merged with Fibromyalgia)
  • Nerve pain (Neuralgia)
  • Nerve compression syndrome (from Carpal tunnel or Sulcus ulnaris))

Controlled by our brain

The brain controls the entire body and nerves are its communication network. Nerves exit the brain as a large cable (spinal cord) and continue along the inside of the spinal column. At this level they exit the spinal column as so-called spinal nerves through lateral neural foramina and then travel throughout the body. Some nerves lead directly to their destination, others first form a nerve plexus.

How are nerves affected?

There are many causes including: injuries from falls, sports injuries, auto accidents (whiplash) or arthritis. Sleeping in an awkward position can also produce nerve dysfunctions. Pressure from increased tension of the surrounding muscles or by increased pressure on anatomical bottlenecks can lead to nerve dysfunctions.

Example: brachial plexus injuries (Plexus brachialis)

The brachial plexus can be damaged at birth and cause Erb's palsy (a muscular paralysis of the arm). But even less drastic incidents can affect the bracial plexus. Just an increased tone of the surrounding muscles can initiate discomfort in the shoulder, neck and arm (Skalenussyndrom, Thoracic Outlet Syndrom).

Depending on which nerves of the brachial plexus were damaged, pain can develop in various regions, for example:

  • Neck, shoulders, arms, elbows
  • Wrists, hands, fingers

Possible symptoms include:

  • Numbness
  • Unusual nerve sensations ("pins and needles")
  • Limp body parts
  • Pain

Varying symptoms

Due to the complex way in which nerves are linked to one another, migraines, dizziness, limited movement of the head and neck muscles, throat problems, thyroid hypersensitivity and even epilepsy can be a result of nerve injuries to the brachial plexus. Pain in the lower back can also be caused by damages to the cervical spine.

The chiropractic approach

The chiropractic approach differs from that of academic medicine in that it initially looks to the patient's nervous system. Chiropractic is dedicated to the correction of abnormal configurations of the spinal column's structure (vertebral subluxation complex). These vertebral displacements cause deviated movements of the spinal column and exert pressure on the nervous system.


From a chiropractic standpoint, a displacement on the cervical spine, in particular, can lead to pain sensations on the shoulder. Nerves branch out from the cervical spine and supply the shoulder, arm and hand. If pressure is exerted here by a misaligned vertebrae, dysfunctions, weakness, shaking, pain, tingling or numbness occur. Furthermore, the shoulder joint itself can have a subluxation (in a chiropractic sense) as well as the elbows or the wrist. Correct placement of all joints enables optimal functioning, and the structural conditions for reasonable muscle composition are created.