The extremities of the upper body consist of the ribs, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, and fingers. All of the ribs attach to the thoracic bones in the back. The first rib attaches to the upper portion of the sternum called the manubrium. The second rib attaches to the sterna angle, the region between the manubrium and the upper sternum. Ribs 3 through 7 attach to the body of the sternum. Ribs 8 through 10 attach to cartilage that attaches to the sternum. Ribs 11 and 12 only have attachments in the back on the thoracic vertebrae. When the rib joints function properly the rib cage expands and contracts smoothly with each breath. When a rib becomes misaligned in its joint breathing can be painful. Pain can be felt in the back or in the front and sometimes all the way around the sides. Ribs misalignments are often caused by twisting but trauma such as getting hit playing sports or being involved in a car accident can also be causes.
The shoulder consists of the shoulder blade, or scapula, and the upper arm bone called the humerus. There are many muscles that attach to the shoulder blade and the humerus. The shoulder has more motion than any joint in the body, but with the extreme mobility comes a lack of stability. Repetitive activities such as sleeping on your side, working on the computer, and driving can cause muscles in the chest and front of the shoulder to become too tight while the muscles in the back of the shoulders become weak. When this happens the shoulder blade and humerus can become misaligned causing pain in the arms, shoulders, and collar bones. If shoulder joint and muscle dysfunction is left untreated it can result in conditions such as frozen shoulder or rotator cuff injuries.
The elbow joint is made up of the humerus and the 2 bones of the forearm- the radius and the ulna. It is a very stable joint but can suffer from overuse injuries like tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow. These injuries occur from repeated use of specific muscles which puts stress on the tendons that attach the muscles to the bones. The result is poor movement in the bones, pain in the joints, and sometimes tingling or weakness in the forearms and/or hands.
The wrist is composed of 8 bones between the radius and ulna of the forearm and the metacarpals (long bones) of the hand. These 8 bones are closely joined by cartilage and ligaments and help form the carpal tunnel where the median nerve travels through on its way out of the forearm and into the hand. When the radius, ulna, and/or wrist bones are misaligned the muscles of the forearm tighten which can cause pain and stiffness in the forearm, wrist and hand. In addition, misalignments of the wrist bones can reduce the space available in the carpal tunnel causing pressure on the median nerve leading to symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome. These symptoms are tingling, numbness, swelling, weakness, and pain in the wrist and hand
The fingers are controlled by muscles in the forearm. Tight forearm muscles put stress on the tendons that attach to the fingers. Excess tension can cause the finger joints to stiffen or buckle causing problems such as joint stiffness, joint pain, or even trigger finger where the finger gets stuck in a bent position. Fingers are easily jammed during sports or accidently hitting your outstretched fingers on something. Repetitive or acute trauma to the finger bones can misalign the finger joints.
No matter which joint in the upper body is affected, chiropractic care can help. Chiropractic adjustments realign the joints into the correct position which allows for proper joint motion and gives pain relief. Exercises and stretches provided by the chiropractor help to balance the muscles and take improper stresses off the joints. This all-inclusive care reduces the risk of future pain and loss of joint function.