Bakodys Sign: Simplest Pain Relief Tool for Trapped Nerve

Nerve pain relief positionDid you read about the Bakodys Sign position in the my trapped nerve in your neck article and wondered what I was talking about. The best thing about this orthopaedic test is that it is not only a diagnostic tool, but can be used as a treatment tool as well.

Are you suffering an electric pain maybe running into your shoulder or down the arm into the elbow or wrist? Did you know this simple arm movement could help you get some instant pain relief? In the following post I will explain more about this easy nerve tension test. How to do the test, why do the test and why I recommend it as a treatment tool for a nerve pain in the arm.

Fantastic Diagnostic and Treatment Tool

This medical test is more specifically a cervical orthopaedic test which is also known as Shoulder Abduction Test.

It is used in the physical examination done by chiropractors and doctors when examining a patients neck for a possible nerve compression usually from a herniated disc in the neck. It used for both acute and chronic neck pain diagnosis.

How To Perform the Test?

Here is a video explaining the step by step process for you.

So you can see in order to get it right all you need to do is:

  1. Lift the painful arm,
  2. Place the hand on top of your head.

It is as simple as that!

My extra tips for pain relief:

  1. Try turning your head away from the pain side a little,
  2. Try having your neck bent forward a little,
  3. Try laying on your back with a pillow under your head a rolled up towel under your neck for support,

How Does This Trapped Nerve Test Work?

A positive Bakody’s Sign is when the patient feels better placing their the hand of the painful arm on top of their head.

What happens is the tension on the nerves, like the brachial plexus, is made less when not hanging by your side. It really is such a simple neck pain test which is used to screen for a cervical radiculopathy condition.

Don’t know what is a radiculopathy? Well it is a medical term for trapped or pinched nerve.

I use this cervical spine test when I suspect a patient has a cervical disc herniation causing say a C4, C5, C6 or C7 radiculopathy. It might also be useful when assessing sports injuries on the side of the field like a stinger injury in rugby.

I read that the sensitivity and specificity values are 30%-42% and 90-100% respectively. What this means the test is poor in saying for sure that yes you do have cervical disc herniation with a nerve entrapment (low sensitivity), but it is high in ruling one in.

That is why there are other useful orthopaedic tests for the neck I like are:

  • Spurling’s Test,
  • Doorbells Sign,
  • Cervical Compression Test,
  • O’ Donoghue’s Test.

I tried finding the history of who invented this nerve tension test but couldn’t find out who Mr Bakody was. If you know please let me know in a comment below.

The Bottom Line

Again the idea is to take the pressure off the spinal nerve coming out your neck. Think of the nerve like it is a rope. You need to take the slack (tension) out of the rope to let it rest. To do this you would need to lift the rope up and rest it on your head.

It is so easy to try if you think you do have a pinched nerve in your neck causing pain down your arm or into your elbow. I hope you enjoyed this article today.

Further Reading:

  1. Davidson RI, Dunn EJ, Metzmaker JN. The shoulder abduction test in the diagnosis of radicular pain in cervical extradural compressive monoradiculopathies. Spine. 1981 Sep-Oct;6(5):441-6.
  2. Viikari-Juntura E1, Porras M, Laasonen EM. Validity of clinical tests in the diagnosis of root compression in cervical disc disease. Spine. 1989 Mar;14(3):253-7.
  3. Fast A1, Parikh S, Marin EL. The shoulder abduction relief sign in cervical radiculopathy. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1989 May;70(5):402-3.
  4. Rubinstein SM1, Pool JJ, van Tulder MW, Riphagen II, de Vet HC. A systematic review of the diagnostic accuracy of provocative tests of the neck for diagnosing cervical radiculopathy. Eur Spine J. 2007 Mar;16(3):307-19. Epub 2006 Sep 30.
  • Mish

    Thank you ever so much for this entire article and all the links included. I had luckily discovered Bakody’s on my own, which allowed me to get places…like the bathroom…and the hospital lol, but I was so excited to see there was a term for it and confirmation of my symptoms/diagnosis. It was actually your “Extra tips for pain relief” and the 3 bullet points that literally made me laugh and cry with relief and gladness because it worked for me – I had my face stuffed into my mattress and my hands for 3 days and bed sores on my elbows. The amazing thing is, it actually works standing as well! I couldn’t believe it. Shifting my head a few inches provides almost instant relief. Now I can use both hands!
    Thank you thank you thank you!

  • Jamie

    Sensitivity rules out, specificity rules in. You have something incorrect in your article.

  • Glad you got some laughter healing added to the article 🙂

  • Akosua Pinaman

    I am experiencing that excruciating pain right now and didn’t know what it was till I googled today and much grateful for this article but I must mention your last line of your opening paragraph really got me laughing out loud and forgot about the pain for a moment because that is exactly what I am experiencing. Thanks!

  • @peatmarchyahoocouk:disqus Yes it does sound like the nerve is involved. Maybe something else to consider is the McKenzie Treat Your Own Neck book. I have it and it seems good advice and from what I have read on the Amazon reviews lots of people find it useful. I fully understand how frustrating pain can be stopping you from proper function in your life like the fiddle playing. Let me know how things go.


    Many thanks for your feedback gary.The pain is rampant especially a t night when i stand up. It’s comparable as someone sticking a knife in my fore arm and upper arm I was literally crying with it last night. When I move my chin ie tuck my neck in it sends severe shooting pains down my arm followed by pins and needles that last 5 10 mins. Is that prescriptive of nerve damage??? and once again thankyou. I’m just really worried because it’s taken over my life and as a fiddle player it’s devastating.

  • @peatmarchyahoocouk:disqus I know how severe it can get as I have seen the effects in patients. If it is a cervical disc herniation diagnoses I would suggest asking for nerve conduction study to confirm any actual changes in the nerve, discussing with a doc about specific neuropathic pain medication. A more natural route might be intravenous magnesium I have added the pdf to show a doctor how to use magnesium according to the South African Pain guidelines. I have seen drastic reductions in severe pain levels just through magnesium. Other than having a chiropractor maybe use some cold laser on your neck and help adjust your mid to upper back to make sure your not overloading your neck from there.


    Many thanks pal, i will try it . I’m going for a scan in 2 weeks but this has ruined my life. never known pain like it.

  • Hay Peat, 3 months is a long time to have a pain have you had it checked out yet? This arm position is a great temporary pain relief treatment. If it helps you try it sitting and laying down.


    many thanks i am in a mess and have been for 3 months now. incredible pain in back and right arm. i’m a fiddle player and can’t play now.this is agony how can I get cured??

  • Moazzam

    It really works for sometime while you are in this position but when you tilt your head to the left where the pain is residing then it hurts again.

  • david hudson

    tried it and does give some relief