Brachialgia - What is it?

Monday, January 4, 2016

Brachialgia is the medical term to describe a certain type of arm pain caused by a compressed or pinched nerve in the neck.

What causes brachialgia?

The spine has two bony tunnels that contain the spinal cord and the spinal nerves and when something happens to reduce the diameter of the tunnel/s the cord or the nerves become pinched. This pinching or neural compression causes several symptoms.  These may include pain in the neck, shoulder blade or arm along with weakness and a numb, tingling feeling. 

Brachialgia pain can be brought on by any of these conditions:

  • Rigid spine - spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Bulging or slipped disc
  • Excess bone growth causing bony spurs on the spine
  • Osteoarthritis of the spine – spondylosis
  • Accidents and sports injuries

It's also quite common for two or more of these conditions to occur at the same time.

How is brachialgia treated?

After your doctor has diagnosed brachialgia, you'll find there are quite a few treatments available to give pain relief and help the healing process.  Depending on your individual requirements, these may include:


  • Manipulation of the spine to relieve the compressed nerves
  • Back massage to reduce pain and correct the compression
  • Specially designed exercises to strengthen bones and abdominal muscles
  • Gentle stretching Hydrotherapy to increase range of movement
  • Posture improving exercises

Brachialgia from osteoarthritis of the spine often improves after a few sessions of physiotherapy designed to free the pinched nerve.  In addition, warm water swimming sessions/hydrotherapy supervised by your physiotherapist often help to resolve this condition.  Massage therapy is another treatment that can free trapped nerves, reduce pain and speed up the healing process.
Pain medication is a commonly recommended medical treatment and you may be prescribed powerful painkillers, membrane stabilising drugs and anti-convulsants.  In some cases, medical treatment may require Ketamine to be given through an I.V. drip in the arm.

Nerve sheath injections may be necessary to block pain and nerve spasms.  This is a local anaesthetic injected into the neck around the compressed nerve.  This greatly improves brachialgia and surgery can sometimes be delayed or even avoided.  Unfortunately, the benefit of these injections is only temporary and wears off after several days or weeks.

Severe cases of brachialgia may need surgery and if you have the common symptoms – see a doctor for a correct, medical diagnosis.  

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