Definition of brachialgia

Brachialgia, often unknown to the general public, is a medical condition that deserves special attention due to its significant impact on the quality of life of those affected. This medical term refers to pain radiating down the arm, usually caused by compression or irritation of the nerve roots in the cervical spine. The topic is of great relevance in the fields of osteopathy and complementary medicine, where a thorough understanding of the condition can lead to more effective and less invasive treatments.

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The aim of this article is to provide a comprehensive and academically rigorous overview of brachialgia. We will explore the underlying causes, symptoms, diagnostic methods and available treatment options, with particular emphasis on therapeutic approaches derived from Spinal decompression therapy and osteopathy. This text is aimed at patients looking for reliable answers based on scientific evidence.


Epidemiology and Statistics

Prevalence of brachialgia

Brachialgia, although less common than other musculoskeletal conditions such as low back pain, nevertheless has a significant prevalence in the general population. According to recent epidemiological studies, approximately 3 to 5% adults are likely to develop symptoms of brachialgia at some point in their lives. This prevalence can vary depending on various factors, such as age, gender, and occupation. It is important to note that brachialgia can have a considerable impact on individuals' quality of life, leading to functional limitations and reduced productivity at work.


Most affected demographic groups

Epidemiological data indicate that brachialgia generally affects middle-aged adults, with peak prevalence between 40 and 60 years of age. Men and women are affected relatively equally, although some studies suggest a slight predominance in women. Occupations requiring repetitive arm movements or prolonged non-ergonomic posture are also at greater risk. Additionally, individuals with a history of back or neck problems are more likely to develop brachialgia. It is therefore crucial for healthcare professionals to consider these demographic factors when evaluating and treating patients.


Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomical description of the arm and associated nervous structures

The human arm is a complex structure composed of three main bones: the humerus in the upper part, and the radius and ulna in the lower part. These bones are connected by several joints, including the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint and the elbow joint. The nerve structures that innervate the arm are part of the brachial plexus, a network of nerves that emerges from the cervical vertebrae (C5 to T1). This brachial plexus is essential for motor skills and sensitivity of the arm, forearm and hand.


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The brachial plexus is made up of several major nerves, including the median, ulnar, and radial nerves. These nerves are responsible for transmitting motor and sensory signals between the brain and the arm. They pass through various anatomical structures, including muscles, tendons and ligaments, and are therefore susceptible to compression or irritation, which can contribute to conditions like brachialgia.


Normal physiological functioning

Under normal physiological conditions, the brachial plexus provides fluid communication between the central nervous system and the arm. Motor signals from the brain pass through this network of nerves to reach the muscles of the arm, enabling coordinated and precise movements. Likewise, sensory signals, such as touch and pain, are transmitted to the brain via these same nerve pathways.


Optimal arm function also depends on the integrity of the circulatory and musculoskeletal systems. Arteries and veins provide a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues of the arm, while muscles, tendons and ligaments work synergistically to allow a full range of movement. Any disturbance in this physiological functioning can lead to symptoms such as pain, weakness or loss of sensation, often grouped under the term brachialgia.



Common causes of brachialgia

Brachialgia is often the result of various conditions that affect the nervous or musculoskeletal structures of the arm and spine. These conditions can include herniated discs, foraminal stenoses, and soft tissue injuries, among others. Understanding the underlying cause is crucial for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.


The causes of brachialgia can be classified into two main categories: mechanical and non-mechanical. Mechanical causes often relate to structural problems such as damaged discs or worn joints, while non-mechanical causes can include infections, tumors or systemic diseases like diabetes.


Herniated disc

One of the most common causes of brachialgia is herniated disc cervical. This condition occurs when the nucleus pulposus of an intervertebral disc protrudes through the annulus fibrosus, thereby compressing the nerves or spinal cord. This can lead to pain, numbness, and weakness in the arm.


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The diagnosis of a herniated disc is usually confirmed by imaging techniques such as MRI or CT scan. Treatment can vary from conservative management, such as physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications, to more invasive surgical procedures like discectomy or spinal fusion.

Foraminal stenosis

The stenosis foraminal is another common cause of brachialgia. It occurs when the opening (foramen) through which spinal nerves pass narrows, often due to osteoarthritis or other degenerative changes. This reduction in space can lead to nerve compression, causing symptoms similar to those of a herniated disc.


Treatment for foraminal stenosis may vary depending on the severity of symptoms and the extent of the stenosis. Treatment options may include corticosteroid injections, lifestyle modifications, and in more severe cases, surgical decompression to widen the foraminal opening.


Other associated pathologies

Other less common but nonetheless important conditions can also contribute to brachialgia. This can include spinal tumors, infections like spondylodiscitis, and systemic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis that can affect the spine.


Taking these associated pathologies into account is essential for a complete diagnosis and an effective treatment plan. Additional tests, including blood tests and other forms of medical imaging, may be needed to rule out these less common but serious causes of brachialgia.



Brachialgia usually presents with radiating pain that can extend from the neck up the arm, including the shoulders and sometimes to the fingers. This pain may be accompanied by sensations such as tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness. It is also possible to feel a limitation in the range of movement of the arm or shoulder.


Brachialgia Pain Patterns

Localized Pain

  • Description: The pain is confined to a specific area of the arm, often around the shoulder or elbow.
  • Features: The pain may be sharp or dull and is usually exacerbated by certain movements or positions.

Radiating Pain

  • Description: The pain travels along the path of a nerve, often from the cervical region up the arm.
  • Features: This pain may be described as burning, tingling or tingling and may be accompanied by muscle weakness or loss of sensation.

Night Pain

  • Description: Pain that occurs or worsens during the night, often disrupting sleep.
  • Features: This pain can vary in intensity and can be influenced by sleeping position.

Mechanical Pain

  • Description: Pain is triggered or worsened by specific movements or prolonged positions.
  • Features: Often acute during movement and may be relieved by changing position.

Reflex Pain

  • Description: Pain that is felt in an area distant from the source of the irritation or injury.
  • Features: For example, a herniated cervical disc can cause pain that radiates down the arms.

Radiating Pain in the Scapula

  • Description: This specific pain radiates towards the shoulder blade, often from the cervical or thoracic region.
  • Features: The pain can be acute or chronic and is often described as a burning or pulling sensation. It may be accompanied by symptoms such as tingling or numbness and may worsen with certain movements or positions.


This type of pain can be particularly confusing to patients and healthcare professionals because it can be confused with other conditions, such as heart or gastrointestinal problems. Therefore, accurate diagnosis is crucial for effective management.


Each pain pattern has its own diagnostic and therapeutic implications, and it is therefore crucial for healthcare professionals to perform a comprehensive assessment to determine the type and cause of brachialgia in each patient.


It is important to note that the nature and intensity of symptoms can vary considerably between individuals. Some patients may experience sharp, intense pain, while others may have more subtle but chronic symptoms. Accurate understanding of symptoms is crucial for diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.


Associated Symptoms

In addition to the main symptoms, it is also possible to experience associated symptoms such as headaches, neck stiffness or even difficulty sleeping due to the persistent pain. These symptoms can often complicate the clinical picture and require a complete evaluation for an accurate diagnosis.


Variability of Symptoms

Symptom variability can also be influenced by factors such as physical activity, stress and even weather conditions. For example, some patients report an exacerbation of symptoms with specific movements or in certain positions. Understanding these nuances can help personalize the treatment plan and provide more effective relief.



Diagnosis of brachialgia often begins with a thorough history and physical examination. The physical examination may include tests of mobility, muscle strength, and sensitivity to assess the extent of nerve damage. Specific tests like the Spurling test can also be used to locate the source of the nerve compression.


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After the initial examination, medical imaging methods are often employed for a more precise diagnosis. This may include an x-ray, an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or a CT scan. These techniques visualize bony structures and soft tissues, including intervertebral discs and nerves, to identify any abnormalities that could be the cause of brachialgia.


Diagnostic Criteria

Diagnostic criteria for brachialgia are generally based on a combination of clinical symptoms and medical imaging findings. Symptoms may include pain radiating down the arm, muscle weakness, and tingling or burning sensation. These symptoms must be correlated with imaging test results to make a definitive diagnosis.


It's also crucial to distinguish brachialgia from other conditions that may have similar symptoms, such as heart conditions or shoulder problems. Therefore, well-defined diagnostic criteria, often supported by evidence-based clinical guidelines, are essential to ensure an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan.


Brachialgia vs cervico-brachialgia



Brachialgia is a general term for pain felt in the arm region. It can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including musculoskeletal and neurological problems.


  • Muscle problems
  • Tendonitis
  • Sports injuries
  • Neuralgia


  • Clinical evaluation
  • Medical imaging (if necessary)
  • Neurological tests



Cervico-brachialgia is a specific form of brachialgia where pain in the arm is associated with problems in the cervical spine. It is often the result of conditions like cervical disc herniation or foraminal stenosis.


  • Cervical disc herniation
  • Foraminal stenosis
  • Cervical arthritis
  • Nerve compression


  • In-depth clinical evaluation
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT)
  • Electromyography (EMG)

Key Points of Difference

  1. Origin of Pain: Brachialgia can have various origins, while cervico-brachialgia is specifically linked to cervical problems.
  2. Diagnosis: Diagnostic tests for head and neck pain are often more complex and may include nerve conduction studies.
  3. Treatment: Treatment of cervicobrachialgia may require more specialized interventions, including Spinal decompression therapy or surgery, depending on the severity of the nerve compression.


Therapeutic Approaches for Brachailgia

Medicines and injections

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are often the first line of treatment for brachialgia. They work by reducing inflammation around affected nerves, which can relieve pain and improve mobility. Corticosteroids, administered either orally or by injection, can also be used for more severe cases.


Epidural steroid injections are another option for cases of brachialgia resistant to standard drug treatments. These injections are usually performed under fluoroscopic guidance to ensure precise drug delivery. They can offer quick and effective relief, although temporary, and are often used in conjunction with other forms of treatment.



L’osteopathy offers a holistic approach to treating brachialgia, focusing on overall body alignment and musculoskeletal well-being. Osteopathic techniques, such as joint manipulation and stretching, can help improve mobility and reduce muscle tension that contributes to pain.


Osteopaths may also use myofascial release and soft tissue mobilization techniques to target specific areas of tension or imbalance. These methods are often integrated into an overall treatment plan that may include advice on exercise, nutrition, and other aspects of lifestyle.


Spinal decompression therapy

Neurovertebral decompression is a non-invasive technique that uses a specialized device to stretch and decompress the spine. This method is particularly effective for cases of brachialgia resulting from herniated discs or foraminal stenosis. It aims to create additional space around compressed nerves, which can reduce pain and improve function.


Decompression sessions are typically performed in a clinical setting and can be personalized based on the patient's specific needs. Studies have shown that this technique can be a viable alternative to surgery for some patients, and it is often used alongside other forms of treatment, including medications and osteopathy.



Brachialgia is a complex condition that requires a multidisciplinary approach for effective diagnosis and treatment. This article addressed the epidemiological, anatomical, etiological, symptomatological, diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of brachialgia. The goal has been to provide patients with a reliable, evidence-based resource for understanding and managing this condition.


It is crucial for patients to consult qualified professionals for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Treatment approaches vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of symptoms. Therefore, a comprehensive assessment and appropriate management are essential to improve the quality of life of people with brachialgia.


Published research/studies in Spinal Decompression Therapy


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Preparations for spinal decompression therapy treatment for brachialgia

  • Book your appointment online or contact our staff at the TAGMED clinic to book your appointment by phone.
  • Before going to the TAGMED clinic in Montreal or Terrebonne for your first treatment, there are some things you should absolutely do. First, make sure you have your medical imaging reports (X-ray, MRI, or ultrasound) available.
  • Also, make sure you are aware of the various possible risks and side effects associated with treatment at Tagmed Clinic. You should also take all necessary measures (ex. Apply ice to the inflamed area to ensure that your body is ready for further treatment.
  • Also, make sure you are aware of the various possible risks and side effects associated with treatment at Tagmed Clinic. You should also take all necessary measures (ex. Apply ice to the inflamed area to ensure that your body is ready for further treatment.
  • Finally, if you were unable to complete our form, as mentioned above, arrive 15 minutes before your appointment time to ensure you have enough time to discuss your condition, make the assessment and your treatment.

To be completed before your consultation at TAGMED clinic

Download, print and complete this questionnaire (your health history), before consulting us, in order to save time. (Click on the tablet!)


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