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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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Testimonial

I slipped on ice in December, landing hard on my behind. I was in excruciating pain and could barely move. It was a Saturday night but I called the office and left a message (new patient, too, found them on Google.) I received a call back first thing Monday morning, they got me right in that day, and I just completed my 3- month treatment plan. I feel so much better and am happy to have found Dr. Ide and his staff.

  ~Amy Hawker

Dr. Ide and his staff are awesome. I had all but given up and I saw his ad. I am s happy to be out of partial pain and I have only gone twice, I cannot wait for the end results. Just to be pain free. Dr. Ide, I thank you so much.

   ~ Patsy Dimond-Spencer

Dr. Ide and his staff have given me my life back. The day I called to make my first appointment I had been suffering from a migraine and severe neck pain for 6 days. This was also after receiving multiple pain injections from my primary physician with no relief. His staff not only verified my insurance was accepted at this location before even offering me an appointment time (which multiple offices will not do this) over the phone but I was able to make an appointment for the same day. Dr. Ide took the time to obtain pertinent patient history and not only explain but he also showed me on my x-rays why I was experiencing pain. He addressed the root of the problem instead of pushing prescriptions to subside your symptoms. HE discussed my POA in detail and reiterated why finishing therapy and continuing home therapy was important. I was hesitant and nervous about my first adjustment but again, he took the time to walk me through each step. Paired with my weekly adjustments I also receive massage therapy. Monica, the massage therapist is incredible. She takes the time to ask specific questions before the massage to ensure she provides the best care possible. Kasey, Dr. Ide's assistant is extremely personable and continues to make sure you feel comfortable throughout your visit. The front staff also provides a warm and welcoming environment. Within my first month of treatment, I'm able to go das without a headache now and I have reduced the frequency of my pain medication. I highly recommend Dr. Ide and his staff!

    ~Leah Craig

Very friendly staff and knowledgeable doctor! After doing a 3 month program, I no longer have daily headaches, back pain or neck pain. Most doctor's adjust your back and send you on your way - Dr. Ide makes sure to turn it into a lifestyle change by improving your posture and fixing any issues you may have. I would definitely recommend him over any chiropractor.

    ~Lauren Dunigan

I always have good service and leave feeling good! The people are nice and all know my name. I really like how they do business for senior citizens... that's a big plus!
~Nancy Matson

Very extensive in the examination. Not like other chiropractors I'd seen who just do a quick adjustment. They diagnosed the problem and are working to correct it with me. They have even went so far as to work out payment arguments for the things my insurance wouldn't cover.

    ~Brandon Ogle

I had neck and shoulder pain since 2010. Ever since I started going to him I have felt better and better!

    ~Andrel Jacobs 

I had ankle problems all my life in my left foot. Dr. Ide adjusted my ankle for me and within one adjustment my ankle felt the best ever. Thanks Dr. Ide!

              A.H.
              Fenton, MI

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