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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.
The symptoms that can accompany arm pain will depend on the cause. They may include:
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:
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.
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.
Broken or fractured bones can cause immense, sharp pain in the arm. You may hear an audible snap when the bone breaks. Symptoms include:
This is a chronic disorder caused by inflammation that most directly affects the joints. Common symptoms include:
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:
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:
Call 911 if you think you’re having a heart attack.
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:
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 cases.
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
Other symptoms of broken arms include:
Other symptoms of a heart attack include:
Call 911 immediately if you have symptoms of a heart attack.
Treatments for arm pain will vary on the cause and the severity of your arm pain.
Some treatments for arm pain include the following
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.
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 use.
Wrapping the affected area with an elastic bandage or brace can help reduce swelling and prevent you from extending a joint too far, encouraging healing.
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 your doctor.
In many cases, arm pain occurs due to a preventable injury or condition. You can do the following to prevent injury and arm pain:
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.
Written by: Ana Gotter
Medically reviewed on: May 31, 2016: William A Morrison, MD
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