Pain in the neck

From time to time, I keep losing sensation in my right arm from the neck downwards. Sometimes it happens for 2 – 3 hours at a stretch. As if paralysed, my arm just hangs limply and I have to use my left hand to even lift my right hand.

Q: From time to time, I keep losing sensation in my right arm from the neck downwards. Sometimes it happens for 2 – 3 hours at a stretch. As if paralysed, my arm just hangs limply and I have to use my left hand to even lift my right hand. My X-rays are normal. Also, when this happens, I feel pain at the neck. I even tried physiotherapy, but the relief was temporary. Why does this happen? And what should I do immediately when it happens.

Renuka M via email

A: The symptoms you mentioned are due to transient compression of nerve roots or nerves in your neck.

These nerves originate in the neck from the spinal cord and travel to the arm. They provide sensation and relay commands to move your arm. The X-ray would be normal as these tissues are not seen in it. There are different reasons for this kind of a problem such as a slip disc in the neck or thoracic outlet syndrome. Detailed examination by an orthopaedic expert and investigations such as MRI scan or EMG/NCV might be needed to diagnose the cause. You can learn a few simple stretches from the physiotherapist for temporary relief. Treating the root cause should cure your problem.

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