Herniated disc numb arm is a symptomatic profile describing actual or perceived numbness in all, or part, of the shoulder, arm, hand or fingers. Herniated discs in the neck can indeed cause numbness in the arm, but disc abnormalities can also take the blame incorrectly for enacting numbness.
A great number of diagnosed cases of pinched nerves via foraminal stenosis, due to a bulging disc, are misdiagnosed, leading to the agonizingly poor curative statistics we see in most back pain and neck pain treatment protocols. There are many other possible explanations for arm numbness, including spinal structural, nonspinal structural, infectious and systemic processes.
This discussion explores how arm numbness may be caused or related to a cervical disc pathology.
Numbness in the arm can surely come about from a herniated disc compressing a spinal nerve root structure. This will often cause objective numbness, also known as complete numbness, which is described as the total lack of feeling and external sensation. This clinical profile is rare, but it can exist.
In most cases, the symptoms entail subjective numbness, as well as tingling, weakness and pain, and also usually produce a wider symptomatic expression than could be explained from one herniated disc. This is the virtual rule when it comes to arm pain syndromes and describes the majority of affected patients we deal with every day.
Remember, each cervical spinal nerve is responsible for innervating particular areas of the anatomy. When the symptoms extend to areas not served by the theorized compressed nerve, then the accuracy of the diagnostic theory may be suspect.
Herniated discs are very common and are blamed for pain and related neurological symptoms all over the anatomy. However, many of these syndromes are misdiagnosed, causing the epidemic of failed back pain therapies we write about constantly. It is not that the treatments are so poor. It is instead, that they will only work to relieve pain when the symptoms are actually the result of the herniation; which they rarely are.
Most numbness conditions are subjective and are therefore the result of some other process besides true nerve compression. Sure, the disc bulge might only be partially touching the nerve, but in most of these circumstances, no symptoms will result.
More logical possible explanations for symptoms might include muscular interactions, such as thoracic outlet syndrome, disease processes, localized nerve dysfunction, ischemia of the involved tissues or idiopathic reasons. Never assume that a cervical herniated disc is directly responsible for pain and neurological effects unless the diagnosis is tested and proven to be definitively correct. Instead, statistics clearly reveal that it is wiser to assume that a herniated disc is likely to be innocent, unless proven otherwise.
If you have subjective numbness, or symptoms which change often, or are work-related, the chances that they come from a herniated disc are slim. This is even more likely to be true, if you have already attempted a range of seemingly appropriate spinal disc therapy options, without success. In this case, we strongly advise reconsidering the diagnostic conclusion and learning more about alternative possibilities which might explain the symptoms.
If the disc issue is truly the cause of numbness in the arms, then treatment is likely to be needed, but should be successful.
Surgery is risky, but can work, when all goes well and the diagnosis is perfectly sound. However, even successful operations often lead to the common incidence of complications, such as re-herniation or the loss of integrity in the surrounding areas of the spine. Always be wary of any surgical fix and be sure to weigh the pros and cons of any procedure.