Arm pain is
defined as discomfort or pain experienced anywhere throughout the arm, and it can
include pain in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. Arm pain can occur due to a variety
of different causes. The most common causes are injury or overuse. Depending on
the cause, the pain may start suddenly and go away or it may increase gradually.
Symptoms that occur with arm pain
that can accompany arm pain will depend on the cause. They may include:
lymph nodes under the arm
Causes of arm pain
Causes of arm
pain and the accompanying symptoms can range from mild to severe. Possible
causes of arm pain include:
Pinched nerves happen when a nerve has too much pressure on
it due to surrounding:
Other symptoms can include:
- a sharp pain
- muscle weakness
Sprains are stretching or tearing of the ligaments or
tendons, and they’re common injuries. You can take care of a mild sprain at
home, but more severe strains may require surgery. Common symptoms can include
swelling, bruising, and limited joint mobility.
Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon. It commonly occurs
in the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. Tendonitis can vary from mild to severe.
Other symptoms include mild swelling, tenderness, and a dull, aching pain.
Rotator cuff injury
These occur most often in people who perform overhead
motions in their daily lives, like painters or baseball players. Symptoms
include a dull ache in the shoulder and potential arm weakness.
fractured bones can cause immense, sharp pain in the arm. You may hear an
audible snap when the bone breaks. Symptoms include:
- an inability
to turn your palm upward
This is a
chronic disorder caused by inflammation that most directly affects the joints.
Common symptoms include:
of the joints
in the joints
Angina is chest pain that occurs when your heart isn’t
getting enough oxygen. It can cause pain in the arm and shoulder as well as
pressure in your chest, neck, and back. Having angina often indicates an underlying
heart problem. Other symptoms can include:
- chest pain
- shortness of breath
Heart attacks occur when blood can’t get to the heart due to
a blockage, cutting off the heart’s oxygen supply. This can cause sections of
the heart muscle to die if oxygen doesn’t return quickly. When experiencing a
heart attack, you may have:
- pain in one or both arms
- shortness of breath
- pain elsewhere in your upper body
- a cold sweat
- chest pain
Call 911 if you think you’re having a heart attack.
Diagnosing arm pain
Your doctor will
first need to diagnose the underlying cause of the pain to treat it. They’ll
first conduct a history and physical exam, asking you about your activity,
potential injuries, and symptoms. Based on your symptoms, the following tests
may help your doctor make a diagnosis:
doctor may ask you to lift your arms or do other simple motions to evaluate
your range of motion. This can help them identify the location and cause of
potential injuries or pain.
tests can help your detect some conditions that would cause arm pain, such as diabetes
or certain conditions that cause inflammation of the joints.
can help your doctor diagnose broken or fractured bones.
your doctor thinks your arm pain is associated with potential heart
complications, they may order these tests to evaluate how your heart is working
and evaluate the blood flow through your heart.
use high-frequency sound waves to get an image of the inside of the body, and
they can help your doctor detect problems with joints, ligaments, and tendons.
doctor can use MRIs and CT scans to get a more detailed image of soft tissue
and bones. This can help them detect problems.
When arm pain is an emergency
Most of the time
arm pain isn’t a sign of a medical emergency. In many cases, you can treat arm
pain with home remedies. However, you should get emergency medical in some
You should call
911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you suspect that a broken bone,
heart attack, or another heart condition is causing your arm pain
of broken arms include:
physical deformities, like your arm or wrist sticking out an angle
unable to bend or turn over arms, hands, or fingers
of a heart attack include:
pain or pressure
in the back, neck, or upper body
immediately if you have symptoms of a heart attack.
Treatments for arm pain
arm pain will vary on the cause and the severity of your arm pain.
for arm pain include the following
- In some
cases, pain in the arm may be severe enough that your doctor will prescribe
pain due to inflammation, anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids
can help reduce the underlying cause and the subsequent pain. Oral medications,
injections, and intravenous medications are available.
may need to treat some arm pain with physical therapy, particularly when you
have a limited range of motion.
severe cases of arm pain, surgery may be necessary. For example, a surgeon can
help repair torn ligaments or broken bones.
In addition to
the medications your doctor can prescribe for arm pain, you can use a variety
of treatments at home.
Examples of home
remedies for arm pain include:
Sometimes, all the body needs is rest. Rest the area in pain,
and avoid strenuous exercise and movement.
Icing injuries can often help to reduce swelling and
inflammation. Use an ice pack, covered in a towel, for 20 minutes at a time on
the affected area. Wait for at least an hour between ice packs.
Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers
If you don’t want to take a trip to your doctor and your
pain is mild, OTC pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen can help treat
your discomfort. Don’t use these medications for longer than their recommended
Wrapping the affected area with an elastic bandage or brace
can help reduce swelling and prevent you from extending a joint too far,
Keep your arm
elevated to help reduce swelling and pain.
If any of these
remedies make your pain worse, stop the home treatment immediately and consult
Preventing arm pain
In many cases,
arm pain occurs due to a preventable injury or condition. You can do the
following to prevent injury and arm pain:
regularly, particularly before exercise.
sure you have the correct form for the exercises you’re performing to prevent
protective equipment while playing sports.
If, despite your
best efforts, you’re still experiencing arm pain that’s persistent or
interferes with your daily routine, see your doctor. They can determine the
cause and offer you treatment options.