Why Do My Arms Itch and Burn?

Why do my arms itch and burn?Brachioradial Pruritus

Are your arms itching and burning?

Is the only relief an ice pack applied to the area?

Does it get worse at night?

Do you have a history of head or neck injuries?  Car accidents?  Falls?  Other Traumas?

You may have a condition known as Brachioradial Pruritus.  According to Medscape, Brachioradial pruritus is a nerve related itch syndrome of the upper extremities. It is typically localized to the skin on the forearm, but involvement of the upper arms and shoulders is also common.  It may be one sided or both sided. Scratching reportedly only makes the discomfort worse, and most patients discover that application of cold packs is often the only therapy that provides symptomatic relief.

This was the case for a 37 year old patient with BRP, Jennifer.  She would sit up all night with ice packs on her arms in order to get some relief.  This case was published as a Case Study in the Journal of Upper Cervical Chiropractic Research on the resolution of her condition utilizing Upper Cervical Chiropractic for the correction of structural misalignments in the neck.  This particular patient had a fall on a staircase where she hit her head about 8 years before the symptoms began.  As a nurse she was able to diagnose herself as having Brachioradial Pruritis a somewhat rare condition that Dermatologists typically see and have little answers for.

Jennifer went the Dermatologist route at first and had no results.  She just continued to suffer until the cause was identified and then she was on the path to recovery.

Dermatologists are frequently baffled by this condition and maybe for good reason, much of the research available points to the neck as a probable cause (see references below).  So if you go to a skin expert and they see itching skin then they will frequently prescribe some sort of topical cream or other medication to no avail.  But if the problem is being caused by an underlying neck condition as it was in Jennifer's case, a skin expert is going to have a hard time properly diagnosing or treating such a condition.

If the cause is pressure on the nerves as they leave the neck and travel into the arm then covering up the sensation with Benadryl or even ice packs are at best a temporary solution.

In the next blog we will look at additional research that is pointing BRP sufferers to the neck.

If you have been diagnosed with Brachioradial Pruritis or if you just have the symptoms described above then a structural evaluation of your neck would be appropriate.  Now the problem is not all neck evaluations are created equal.  Without a thorough understanding of the misalignments in the neck the problem could be unchanged or made worse.

So make sure that you go to an upper cervical specialist that will take the time and the effort to understand the misalignments with precise upper cervical x-rays and a thorough evaluation.

Many excellent upper cervical specialists can be found at www.nucca.org or www.upcspine.com  or if you are in the Redwood City, California area to schedule your evaluation, click here.

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Dr. Pete Tsiglieris of Advanced Spinal Care in Redwood City, California is an Upper Cervical Specialist trained by the National Upper Cervical Chiropractic Association (NUCCA). His upper cervical clinic also serves San Mateo, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Carlos, and Sunnyvale. They are uniquely trained to correct problems in the upper cervical spine (upper neck). This vital area is intimately connected to the central nervous system and problems in this area have been shown to be an underlying cause of a variety of different health problems, including migraines and other headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain, back pain and shoulder pain and weakness. More information can be found on our website at https://bayareanuccacare.com/


Heyl T. Brachioradial pruritus. Arch Dermatol. Feb 1983;119(2):115-6.

Tait CP, Grigg E, Quirk CJ. Brachioradial pruritus and cervical spine manipulation. Australas J Dermatol. Aug 1998;39(3):168-70.

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