Arm Pain Symptoms

Published: August 22, 2011

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Overview

Your arms include three major bones in addition to ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles. Pain can be mild, moderate, or severe and can occur anywhere between your shoulders and wrists. At first, it might be difficult to identify what is causing arm pain. Frequently, the first sign of a heart attack is intense pain and numbness in the left arm. You could also experience arm pain due to a pinched nerve, torn ligament, or broken bone.

Most arm pain results from an injury. You might have broken or sprained a bone while playing sports, or you might have twisted your back or arm while sleeping. Arm pain can also occur after you've received an injection or vaccination. Other causes for arm pain include tendinitis, pinched nerves, spinal problems, neurological problems, and sprains.

Pain will vary in intensity and location. A pinched nerve might cause a sharp and sudden sensation, and tendinitis might cause a dull and constant sensation. A broken bone might cause excruciating and intolerable pain.

When to Seek Medical Attention

It is not always necessary to seek medical attention. If pain is tolerable, you can try to relieve symptoms with ice or over-the-counter pain medications. If pain does not improve within a few days, you will need to follow up with a doctor. You might have an underlying disease or chronic medical condition like arthritis. Additional tests can help diagnose the precise reason for arm pain. A diagnosis will help you and your doctor develop a precise method for treatment.

If your pain is severe or unbearable, you should seek medical attention immediately. You could have a broken bone, or you might be having a heart attack. You should also see a doctor if you experience numbness or weakness in your arms. You could be experiencing a neurological problem including a pinched nerve or spinal cord tumor. If you do not find a cause for these symptoms immediately, you could become paralyzed or suffer from other serious medical consequences.

When you seek medical attention, make sure that you are keeping records of your pain. If you suffer from chronic pain, document when you experience pain in addition to how this pain has changed over time. Try to explain whether your pain is dull, radiating, sharp, sudden, or throbbing. Also keep track of whether you feel more pain after a certain motion or activity or during a certain time of day.

A doctor might conduct X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or EMGs to examine your bones, muscles, tendons, and nerves.

Treatment

Treatment will vary based on your diagnosis. A broken bone might require a brace or cast, and a sprain might require icing and over-the-counter pain relievers. Some nerve damage can only be remedied through surgery, and some nerve damage can be treated with physical therapy. You will be prescribed one or multiple treatments that include therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription pain relievers, ice, and rest.

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