Symptom FAQs

Q. How can my neck be the problem when I feel the pain in my arm?

A. The pain you feel in your arm can be from a problem in your neck, much like leg pain can be from the low back. This type of pain is called referred pain. When there is injury or irritation in the tissues deep inside your body, your brain is not able to determine exactly where the pain is coming from. Instead, the pain is felt further away from the actual source of the problem. For example, pain in or around your heart may be felt in the jaw or down the left arm. In the same way, problems in your neck can "refer" pain down into your arm. When the source of pain is more toward the surface of your body, your brain has an easier time figuring out where the pain is coming from. A pinprick on your palm hurts right where the pin sticks your hand. Characteristics of referred pain include the following:

  • The source of pain is usually deep and toward the center of your body.
  • It is often felt as a vague, deep, burning, or aching pain.
  • Intense pain radiates further.

Treatment for referred pain must address the source of pain. If your doctor determines that your arm pain is coming from your neck, you will need treatment for your neck, not your arm. Helping your neck problem should take away or reduce the pain in your arm.



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