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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Neurologist (MD)
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 5355
Experience:  Neurology & Int Medicine (US Trained): 20 yrs experience
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Can a pinched nerve in the neck cause pain (or referred

Customer Question

Can a pinched nerve in the neck cause pain (or referred pain) in the rib and breast?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Neurology
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
This would not make sense anatomically. Nerves coming off the neck (cervical) portion of the spinal cord innervate the lower neck, upper shoulder and arm. The breast area and associated ribs would be innervated by thoracic nerves coming off the spinal cord below the neck in the upper and mid back.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
How long have you had this pain? Is it constant or on-and-off? Is it on the left or the right?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Off and on for about two years, most noticable for the past three or four months. It's all on my left side. Neck, shoulder blade, shoulder, rib on side, rib underneath breast, sternum.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No injury to the area. The only thing I can think of is my school bag. It is a messenger-style bag that is quite heavy--but I always carry it on my right side.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Have you had a CT or MRI?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No, I haven't. I'm seeing my OBGYN tomorrow for my annual exam.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Your condition sounds musculoskeletal, so a CT scan would make sense. It will provide a lot of detailed information about the lower neck , shoulder and rib cage. If normal, you should see a physical therapist. If that is not helpful, you would need a neurologist.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
do you think breast cancer is out of the question?
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Given the distribution of your symptoms, as well as your age, I would say this is not likely at all. Your GYN can examine your breasts and do mammography if concerned, but I think you'll have to do some more testing to find the real cause.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
In the meantime, ask your GP or GYN if you would be a candidate for a trial of a nerve-stabilizing medication, such as gabapentin or pregabalin, which can help a lot with the pain... and is usually only needed temporarily.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
My breast just feels so swollen and "in the way." It's not visibly larger than the right, but it sure feels that way. Can thoracic nerve pain cause that?
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Thoracic nerve pain or "neuralgia" can result in a variety of abnormal sensations ( paresthesias). It could be burning, tingling, itching, numbness or a sense of swelling or fullness. It can also affect the blood supply going into the affected area leading to actual swelling in rare cases.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 2 years ago.
Did you have any follow up questions about this? Let me know if you do and I would be happy to help further.