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Arm Pain and Osteopathy

Osteopaths don’t just treat backs- people come to us with arm pain too.

Osteopathy helps arm pain

The Shoulder

The shoulder is one of the areas patients look to us for help with the most. The main joint (the ball and socket) as well as the smaller joint (where the collar bone meets the shoulder blade) can develop pain due to osteoarthritis. Symptoms of this include:

  1. Pain that may be over the joint, or more towards the tip of the shoulder

  2. Stiffness or more resistance on movement

  3. Sharper pain on some movements

Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage health begins to decline in a joint. This can be the result of injury, overuse, or underuse. Catching it early is key- often symptoms are subtle at first but the body still reacts. If a movement becomes uncomfortable, the body may adapt to find a way to continue without it. This loss of movement in a joint actually makes arthritis worse. However, if this is picked up quickly, we may be able to restore the movement, improving the joint health and overall mobility.

Another shoulder condition patients ask about is frozen shoulder. Not all shoulder pain and restriction is frozen shoulder- it is a specific process despite the vague name.

The Upper Arm

More often than not, symptoms affecting the upper arm are also present in the shoulder or elbow. These could be caused by a muscle or an irritated nerve, among other things.

An example of arm pain that can be both a muscular and nerve problem is thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). A number of nerves and blood vessels pass through a narrow space near the arm pit. They can be compressed by a tight muscle in the chest, causing pain from the area of compression down to the fingers. If you show symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome, your osteopath will first make sure that the blood supply is not being compromised. If you are safe to treat, they will work on freeing up the area to stop the irritation.

As symptoms improve, we can start thinking about longer term prevention. Often TOS occurs when the muscles in the chest are too tight, and the muscles in the upper back are too weak. This is a common pattern among anyone who spends a lot of time using their hands in front of them. Desk work is a prime example of this. We might want to give you exercises to stretch the tight muscles and strengthen the weaker ones. If your desk if playing a role, we may also have some suggestions for changes you can make there too.

The Elbow

Like the shoulder, there are a number of different structures in the elbow that can cause pain. Tennis and golfer’s elbow are problems stemming from the wrist, but they show as elbow pain. These two conditions are the result of inflammation where the wrist muscles attach to the elbow. If the muscles are overworked, they can pull on their connection to the bone and cause pain. Despite the names, they do not always develop from sports. In fact, tennis elbow can be caused by a desk posture that requires you to tilt your wrist back to use the keyboard or mouse. If this is the case for you, we can offer advice to help correct your desk set-up.

Like other joints, the elbow can be sprained. This might be the result of a sports injury, a fall, or other trauma. A sprain is an injury to ligaments, and it is graded based on its severity. Ligaments have a poor blood supply, so healing can be slow. This makes it even more important to start rehabilitating it quickly. Not only could a sprain cause compensation elsewhere, but giving in to the temptation to rest it will not help it heal any faster or better. After the early phase has passed, ligaments need pressure to help them heal correctly. Returning to using your elbow encourages the fibres to grow in the correct plane. It may also allow them to grow stronger, making re-injury less likely.

Osteopathy for your Arm Pain

Your osteopath is qualified to help with shoulder and elbow problems. Sometimes there is involvement from the neck or upper back, so be prepared for any of these areas to be examined and treated. Osteopaths look at the body as a whole to find the root of the problem, and sometimes we find two problems that are related, so don’t forget to mention anything else that might be going on when you have your appointment.

If your arm pain is the result of an injury, we can help to rehabilitate and aim to prevent. If your symptoms are the result of the desk you use for work, we can offer advice to make that more comfortable too. You don’t need a referral to see us, so if you’re suffering, click the link below to start getting on top of your pain.


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