Treating Upper Extremity Pain

Eric H. Williams, MD, has been able to help many patients who suffer from pain, numbness, and loss of function in their upper arms, forearms and wrists. In many, but not all, cases with symptoms like these, the problem may be connected to an injury or compression of a nerve. There are certainly instances wherein the nerve is contused and will heal on its own in time, but when a nerve is cut or crushed (especially on account of physical trauma) Dr. Williams may recommend surgery to relieve pain and restore functionality.

When you experience pain or difficulty with one of your arms, your first stop should be with your primary care physician. If there is a possible issue at play, your doctor will be able to address. If they are unable to provide a diagnosis, or the treatment options they suggest do not work, Dr. Williams may be able to help and you should contact our Baltimore, MD office for a consultation.

nerve pain specialist in baltimore

Upper Extremity Nerve Injury Symptoms

Your nerves function as conduits of information being passed between your brain and all areas of your body. The upper extremities contain numerous nerves essential for transmitting signals that result in functions like sensation, reflexes, and muscle contraction. These nerves originate in several points in the neck area and make up a complex structure we call the Brachial Plexus. They tend to be larger in diameter closer to the neck, ultimately dividing up into smaller branches as they extend out into the upper arm and down into the forearm and hand.

Injuries to your upper extremities can occasionally (but not always) involve trauma to the nerves. This then results in interference to the normal, various functions of the affected arm and hand. Depending on the nature of the injury, Dr. Williams might recommend a surgical procedure. In other cases, however, the origin of the problem may be an illness that has affected the upper extremity nerve(s) and resulted in similar symptoms.

When symptoms develop following an injury to the neck, shoulder, arm, or hand, the resulting issues may stem from nerve compression or entrapment. These symptoms can be similar to the ones experienced when you lay on an arm for too long. Loss of sensation (numbness) can be quite common. This can be helpful in diagnosing the core issue, since the pattern of numbness can help Dr. Williams identify the specific nerve(s) injured.

In some cases, other symptoms presented might include wrist drop, inability to extend the wrist, changes in sweating patterns anywhere in the affected upper extremity, or decreased muscle tone.

Diagnosing and Treating Upper Extremity Nerve Conditions

Dr. Williams’ recommended treatment plan will depend on an array of factors. Your medical history and a physical examination may be used to help Dr. Williams understand the issue and find the area of concern that needs to be addressed. EMG (electromyelography) imaging or a nerve block may also be used in diagnosing the issue. In cases where there is concern that a bone fracture may be responsible for the problem, x-rays might be ordered.

Treatment for nerve damage in the upper extremity can include surgery to improve function, restore sensation, or relieve painful symptoms. This is recommended on a case by case basis and will depend on various factors, including the patient. Other considerations include the location, duration, and type of nerve injury experienced. If Dr. Williams determines the nerve to potentially be repairable, he may use a nerve decompression, nerve graft, or nerve repair technique in attempting to resolve the issue. In cases where upper extremity function is affected and nerve repair is not a viable option, Dr. Williams may recommend a tendon transfer in the appropriate shoulder, elbow, wrist, or digit(s).

As with any nerve issue, there is no guarantee for either diagnosis or treatment. Of course, taking action will at least provide the opportunity for you to regain function and find relief from painful symptoms caused by an upper extremity nerve injury. For additional information, or to request an appointment for a consultation with Dr. Williams at our Baltimore, MD office, simply give us a call at (410) 709-3868 and one of our staff members will be happy to help you.

Eric H. Williams MD
Specializing in reconstructive surgery and pain relief in the Greater Baltimore area.