We get these cases all the time and people are always blown away that massage can be a solution for these symptoms. The good news is these usually resolve with just a few sessions!
When you look at charts of referred pain patterns…yes we realize no one’s looking, but IF you did you’d find that shoulder pain, arm pain/tingling, and hand numbness/tingling can be caused by many different trigger points or soft tissue impingements from the neck to the wrist. There are a lot of possibilities here. However there are only a handful of usual suspects and when you tackle them first, the rest is usually just a bit of clean up.
So who are the usual suspects? Scalenes in the neck, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, the tricep, bicep, and a couple smaller forearm muscles. That’s it for 80-100% of the symptoms in most people. Are there outliers and some unusual problems occasionally? Of course. But these are a great start and most people feel a significant reduction in severity and frequency of their symptoms just from these.
How does massage work to solve numb hands and fingers, tingling arms, and pain in the shoulder? Because very often these are soft tissue specific problems. Tight muscles in the neck can impinge the thoracic outlet where nerves, veins, and arteries move to the armpit from the lower neck. These same structures can be impinged after they’ve passed under the collarbone by pec minor. Once these areas have been released, we expect to see the numbness and tingling start to fade.
Some pain and burning sensations are just caused by hypertonic (really tight) muscle fibers and can be released with neuromuscular therapy. These areas can cause strong referred pain patterns. In the case of our usual suspects, the pain often refers to the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand.
Sometimes people will experience these symptoms in both arms or hands at the same time. We see this more in folks with physical labor type jobs such as painting, construction, etc. Occasionally someone with a desk job will get it in both arms to varying degrees. If you’re experiencing something like this, massage is a great place to start.
Depending on severity and how long the symptoms have been around usually determines treatment lengths. Sometimes it takes 2-3 sessions. If you ignored the problem for a year, it will likely take several sessions to get you back on track. But the good news is, we can usually get you back to normal. Even the stubborn cases.
If you’d like to read a case study of how we treated a shoulder pain issue in an actual client, you can check it out here!