Shoulder, Arm & Hand Pain

Young man with back pain, isolated on whiteAll movement in the shoulders, arms and hands is controlled by the brain. From there, the brain is in contact with the rest of your body through billions of nerves that make up your nervous system.

Some nerves go straight to their destination point, but others mix with other nerves to form complicated nerve networks called a ‘plexus.’ The brachial plexus is made up of nerves that come out of the middle and upper back that supply information to the shoulders, arm, elbows, wrists, hands and fingers.

The nerves that make up the brachial plexus may become irritated as they leave the spinal column. This can occur when the spinal bones in the neck and upper back are misaligned and damage the very nerves they are supposed to protect. Any injury or trauma can cause the bones to become misaligned. Things as serious as an accident or fall or simply sitting at a desk with incorrect posture can create the vertebrae to become misaligned. Symptoms from damage to the brachial plexus can differ depending on location of the trauma.

Common causes of pain to the shoulder, arm, or hand are:

  • Rotator cuff dysfunction
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Brachial Plexopathy
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Tendonitis
  • Neuritis and Bursitis
  • Rheumatism
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

In addition, it is not uncommon to experience headaches, facial pain, dizziness, thyroid or nasal problems as a result of brachial plexus nerve irritation. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome symptoms include tingling and numbness in the hand, fingers wrist, shoulder, elbow and neck. The pain is described as incredibly intense and has been reported to awaken sufferers at night.

This pain is often caused by excess pressure in your wrist, which leads to inflammation. The compression of the median nerve causes the hand to “fall asleep” frequently and drop objects without warning. There continues to be an increase in CTS sufferers seeking help from chiropractors.

A chiropractor is able to analyze the body’s structure to locate and correct subluxations, which are irritated spinal nerves caused by pressure from the vertebrae. This will eliminate the pain and correct the underlying structural problem that is referring pain to the shoulder, arm, or hand.


You use your hands for almost everything. From cooking, to cleaning, to writing, and even brushing your teeth so many of your daily activities are directly depending on the health of the 29 bones and 34 muscles in each hand. Hand pain can occur from a variety of reasons ranging from old age, chronic damage from work related tasks, to injuries sustained from mechanical accidents. Injury to joins, nerves, bones, and tendons is generally approached very differently so it is important to evaluate the source of your pain. Contrast therapy which involves an alternating treatment of heat and ice is most commonly suggested for all hand injuries. 

Damage due to sports injuries or falls can damage the muscles, tendons, bones, and nerves in the wrist. Sports that include a lot of weight bearing activities such as lifting and gymnastics can cause a lot of damage over time. Skiers thumb is a common injury many people get from damaging or tearing the ulnar collateral ligament, the tissue connecting the thumb to the wrist. Damage to this tissue can reduce the thumbs ability to grip and extend. Skiers thumb most commonly arises after falling while skiing, falling whiling gripping ski poles generates enough force to stress the thumb and stretch or tear the ulnar collateral ligament.  

Other Causes of Wrist Damage:

  • Neuritis: Inflammation of nerves
  • Bursitis: Inflammation of bursa; small, fluid-filled sacs cushioning bones, tendons and muscles near joints. 
  • Carpal Tunnel: Increased pressure on median nerve, causes numbness, weakness, and tingling in the hand an digits 1-4 
  • Rheumatism: Inflammation of joints
  • Osteopenia/ Osteoporosis: Low bone density
  • Injuries to joints
  • Broken bones
  • Crushing injury: An injury caused by a compression force onto the body, usually is caused by a natural disaster or deliberate force 
  • Tendinitis: Damaged tendon with inflammation pathology


Within the first 48 hours of an injury due to a fall or accident you should rest and ice the injury. It is also important to keep your wrist elevated so it receives adequate circulation. Compression should be applied after inflammation has subsided. Anti-inflammatory painkillers are recommended for short term relief. Strength exercises are recommended to retrain stabilizers and rebuild and muscle loss due to the decreased movement from extended period of restriction. 

Imaging may be required in sever cases to rule out bone fracture before chiropractic treatment can be initiated. A trained chiropractor can restore range of motion to wrist joins and reduce inflammation and scar tissue build up in the wrist. Chiropractors can also recomend exercises and stretches to help facilitate the healing process. 

Wrist Exercises:

Wrist extension:

Extend your arm with your palm facing your body and gently secure position with opposing are. Hold Stretch for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times per day

Wrist Flexion:

Extend your arm with your palm facing away from your body and gently secure position with opposing are. Hold Stretch for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times per day

Finger Extensions:

With elastic band around the upper 2/3 of all five digits alternated between extension and relaxation. Stretch fingers out and hold extension for 15 seconds and rest for 15 seconds. Repeat 10 times. 

Shoulder Pain:


The shoulder is made up of three bones: the scapula, humerus and clavicle bones. Each of the bones articulates with each other in a joint, the most significant of which is the ball-in socket joint connecting the humerus with the scapula. The glenohumeral joint gives the shoulder its range of free motion, however in doing so it sacrifices stability of the articulating bones. The bones overcome this somewhat by relying on surrounding muscles and tendons (also known as the rotator cuff) to stabilize the bones. Therefore, any damage or injury to any of the stabilizers can be extremely painful and severely restrict the shoulders range of motion.


  • POOR POSTURE: Continuous poor posture overworks the muscles in the upper back and causes an imbalance within the body leaving the shoulders hunched forward to compensate. Overtime this strains the shoulder muscles and can lead to chronic shoulder pain.

  • TRAUMA: Any damage to the rotator cuff tendons can lead to instability and reduce overall function of the shoulder.

  • DEGENERATIVE DISK DISEASE: Damage to the spinal vertebrate can also severely impact the neck and shoulder as the damaged vertebrate now puts more pressure onto surrounding tendons and ligaments which they are not built for.

  • TUMORS: A tumor in the shoulders tissue or bone also leads to sever imbalance and instability in the shoulder.

  • STRAINS FROM OVEREXERTION: Overextending your shoulder can stretch the muscle fiber too much and cause tears within the tissue. Damaged tissue cannot adequately support the shoulder and may leave restrictive scar tissue after it has been healed.

  • TENDONITIS FROM OVERUSE: Tendonitis is a common sports injury that arises from continued overuse of the shoulder tendons. Overtime little tears within the tendon cause inflammation and tenderness within the region.  

  • DISLOCATION: A fall or traumatic injury may pop the head of the humerus bone out of the glenoid socket of the scapula. A medical professional must pop the shoulder back into place if the occurs as an untrained adjuster may fracture the bone while attempting to put it in place.

  • COLLAR OR UPPER ARM BONE FRACTURES: Bone fractures within the shoulder are extremely painful and may take up to 6 weeks to recover from.

  • ADHESIVE CAPSULITIS (FROZEN SHOULDER): Stiffness within the shoulder joint can occur as the capsules surrounding the shoulder muscle tendons thicken and restrict their movement. Frozen shoulder has no known cause though it is often associated with patients who have diabetes or have recently had to put their shoulder in a cast for an extended period of time.


Chiropractic Adjustment




Physical Therapy

Cortisone injections




Doorway Exercise: 


With your arms against a wall and your hands in line with your ears, slowly lean into a wall and push your hands up. Repeat 5 times.

Back pull stretch: