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The Problem of Radiating Pain

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Chiropractic Care and Radiating Pain

Although a few problems involving radiating pain require further investigation, the large majority of cases involving neck pain with arm/hand pain or low back pain with leg/foot pain can be addressed by your chiropractor. Your chiropractor will take a thorough history, do a detailed examination, and order tests if needed, with the overall goal of designing the most effective care plan to help solve your specific problem.

Chiropractic adjustments may be part of the care plan. Chiropractic care may also include a rehabilitative stretching and exercise program, as well as recommendations for improved posture, safer lifting habits, and ergonomic enhancement. Your personalized comprehensive chiropractic care plan will help you return to improved health as quickly as possible.

Many people experience radiating pain as a component of neck pain or low back pain. A person with neck pain might have pain that radiates down her arm, possibly into the hand.1 A person with low back pain might have accompanying leg pain, possibly traveling into the foot. Such arm/hand pain or leg/foot pain can represent a serious underlying health problem. However, not all types of radiating pain are of equal importance. The key is to be able to identify which patterns require prompt attention and which merely appear to be significant but are not.

Authentic radiating pain is most often caused by pressure and/or irritation of a spinal nerve root.2 The spinal nerve becomes inflamed and sends pain signals to the brain that are interpreted as pain in the region of the body supplied by that nerve. Inflammation of a certain spinal nerve in the neck region will result in the experience of pain down the outside of the arm and forearm and into the thumb and possibly index finger. Inflammation of a certain spinal nerve in the low back causes the person to feel pain traveling along the back of the thigh and calf and into the fifth toe.

Specific patterns of radiating pain are associated with inflammation of specific spinal nerves. Such inflammation may be typically caused by pressure from a herniated intervertebral disc. Other disorders which may create local space-occupying pressure need to be considered as well. A thorough history and physical examination will help to identify the cause of the problem. X-ray studies may be needed, as well as an MRI scan. The underlying problem, including the pattern of pain radiation, may be termed a radiculopathy or radiculitis.

But most cases of what appears to be radiating pain are not, in fact, related to pressure on a spinal nerve. Most patterns of radiating pain are not associated with a radiculopathy or radiculitis. Rather, the large majority of pain patterns involving the arm/hand or leg/foot are caused by normal, everyday aches and pains. Our run-of-the-mill physical problems involve relatively large muscles such as the trapezius (overlying the upper back, shoulder, and mid back) and relatively small muscles such as those that overlay the spinal bones themselves and help move the spinal column. Ligaments that hold bones together and tendons that attach muscles to bones may also be involved in these everyday ailments.

Irritation and inflammation of muscles, ligaments, and tendons may cause more difficulty than mere soreness and tightness. Such inflammation may also cause radiating pain, but in broader, more diffuse patterns than those caused by inflammation of a nerve root. A person might experience neck pain with arm and hand pain, or back pain with leg and foot pain, but in a broad pattern not associated with a spinal nerve. This is actually good news for the patient, as such forms of radiating pain (known as scleratogenous patterns), are usually more easily treated than those associated with a radiculopathy or radiculitis.

The bottom line is that your chiropractor is experienced in the diagnosis and care of such problems. Your chiropractor will be able to determine if your radiating pain is associated with muscles, ligaments, and tendons or if it is related to pressure on a spinal nerve.3 Your chiropractor will make specific recommendations for care of your specific health problem and help guide you in the process of returning to good health.

1Caridi JM, et al: Cervical radiculopathy: a review. HSS J 7(3):265-272, 2011
2Magrinelli F, et al: Neuropathic pain: diagnosis and treatment. Pract Neurol 2013 Apr 16 [Epub ahead of print]
3Mena J, Sherman AL: Imaging in radiculopathy. Phys Med Rehabil Clin North Am 22(1):42-57, 2011

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We value our patients' experience at Stamford Sports & Spine. If you are currently a patient, please feel free to complete the following Client Experience Questionnaire. The Questionnaire is in Adobe Acrobat format, and requires the free Acrobat Reader to view.

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Dr. Andrew Zomick & Dr. David Avallon

I have been coming to Stamford Sports and Spine for almost 10 years. I am active and have unfortunately been in a few car accidents. The care and treatment offered at Stamford Sports and Spine is world class and without them I would be living with an inordinate amount of pain and discomfort. Going to Stamford Sports and Spine has made my injuries manageable.

--James


Very good team of therapists. Flexible and available schedule. They helped get my teenage athletes back on the field in half the time.

--Shawn


I was experiencing some pain in my right shoulder and numbness down my arm to my hand. The range of motion in my shoulder was limited and I could not participate in volleyball. Dr. Z came to our office offering a free chair massage and a chance to come in for an evaluation. I did this and we worked out a treatment plan that included therapy and adjustments. I noticed in the first few weeks the pain subsided greatly in my shoulder. The numbness in the arm and hand were present but noticeably better. After three weeks, the range of motion in my shoulder was back to normal and the pain was gone. Now after one month of therapy the numbness in the arm is extremely better and I do not notice the symptoms as often as I used to. Coming into the office has helped tremendously. I can now play volleyball pain-free.

--Mary


After moving from London to the USA, two weeks into living in Stamford and having carried and unpacked a lot of heavy boxes my shoulder froze and I was in a great deal of constant pain. After finding Stamford Sports & Spine on the internet I made an appointment and the corrective programme S.S.S. put together for me meant that I immediately had some pain relief, and over the next few weeks the pain left completely. The programme is also ensuring that I am not only pain free but fully corrected so as this problem should not occur again. Very friendly staff and very detailed assessment programme that has ensured my full recovery.

--Laura


From my first visit to Stamford Sports & Spine I was extremely impressed and pleased with their service. Everyone including staff and doctors were very knowledgeable with their chiropractic services. I learned a great deal about my symptoms and overall care more than I expected. I have visited a few other chiropractors but none were as thorough as Stamford Sports & Spine. I was experiencing severe pain in my shoulder and arm and after a few visits my pain decreased substantially. I really appreciate all the services from the adjustments, rollers and even exercise room. I would highly recommend this facility to everyone. The entire staff are friendly, professional and just simply great!

--Sherri


Everyone was incredibly professional and helpful.  The staff is friendly and goes beyond what was expected to meet my needs and education me about my condition.

--Jon


Came in with severe and constant numbness and tingling in my legs and feet. The treatment worked quickly and resolved all of my symptoms. Thanks!

--Erik


My arms were falling asleep every night and had numbness and tingling during the day. I no longer have any of those symptoms during the day and have very rare episodes of pain at night due to my treatment here at Stamford Sports & Spine

--Eric


I came in for hip pain and stiff neck that also affected my right arm and hand. Using the relaxing rolling / traction bed and electrical muscle stimulation along with stretching and the adjustments my hip pain is gone. I can walk without sharp pains running up and down my legs. My neck range of motion has improved and my muscles are more flexible and less spastic.

--Karen


I had severe neck pain which was aggravated by a recent move. I have been coming to be adjusted for a few weeks now and not only has it helped with the neck pain I had been experiencing, but it has also made me feel better overall. I feel like I am able to sit up straighter, and my muscles are looser and less tense. I no longer have the intense pain I had once been experiencing

--Kim


When I came in my pain was a 10 out of 10. After just one week of care my pain went down to a 4 and has been improving ever since. The staff are very friendly and great educators. I learned a lot about my body and how to take better care of myself.

--Heidi


After a car accident,  I had to seek help for my upper back and neck pain. Slowly but surely I started to feel better, not immediately, but by keeping up with my visits with Dr. Q & Dr. Z. Now I can tell you that I feel leaps and bounds better, and am now looking forward to a pain-free summer.

--Rudy


I have been with Stamford Sports & Spine for more than a year now. I still remember how much pain I was in during my first session. I can now walk in and out without any aches or pains.

--Rick


When I first started going to Stamford Sports & Spine, my back had been seizing up with alarming regularity. After just a few months of working with Dr. Z and Dr. Q, I feel much more confident in my daily activities and have even been able to return to the gym.

--Dan


Thank you to Dr. Z, Dr. Q and the whole Stamford Sports & Spine team! For many years, I have been suffering from severe back pain that would sometimes keep me from going to work. The recurring pain would come and go and I couldn't figure out what I was doing to cause it. When I came to the office, Dr. Z took x-rays, did a complete examination and educated me as to what was happening and why. I began treatment and was given exercises to prevent these injuries from happening in the future. Since starting the treatment, I have seen a great improvement in my back. The pain is gone and I have an increased range of motion. Thanks again to the entire staff who are very friendly and always willing to accommodate my hectic schedule when I make appointments.

--Ron


The strabismus in my eyes caused a vertical deviation in my eye placement.  This resulted in my head naturally tilting to the right and throwing my muscular structure in my neck and shoulders off.  I had accepted the tilt and tightness as a way of life and a natural dis-figuration of my spine.  I almost didn't sign on for initial treatment.  After 3 visits I have already noticed a difference in the position of my head, my posture and regular comfort levels.  There is still a ways to go to rid that area of  a lifetime of dysfunction, but what a relief to know it's treatable and already improving.

-Jenn


I found Dr. Z and Dr. Q earlier in the week after experiencing some back pain and sciatica. After the consultation and x-rays I began therapy. After just 2 treatments I felt much better and had a significant reduction in discomfort in the area of concern. I am looking forward to continuing my treatment in an effort for long term recovery and a return to my heavy exercise routine.

--Tom


FANTASTIC. When I leave I feel like a whole new woman. I have been going there for my neck pain and headaches for about 1 year now; off and on and ever since I started treatment there my headaches have been reduced to one every few months instead of a few every month. The intensity of of my pain has also been reduced to almost nothing. The doctors seem to have a very friendly relationship with all of the patients and I feel very welcomed by the staff as well. Not to mention I love how they incorporate therapeutic massages into my treatment. I have since sent over many of my colleagues and family, who also share the same feelings. Thank you.

--Bri


I had a great experience. My low back pain is completely gone. I found the staff extremely knowledgeable, accommodating and friendly. I would highly recommend them.

--Jay F.

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