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Upper Arm Pain: Everything You Need to Know

By Camilla Moore September 29, 2022 Health and Fitness

If you are experiencing upper arm pain, you are not alone. This is a widespread problem that affects many people. In this blog post, we will discuss the causes of upper arm pain and the treatment options available to you. We will also provide tips on preventing upper arm pain from occurring in the first place.

Common Causes of Arm Pain

When you experience pain in your arms, it can make everyday activities difficult to impossible. Arm pain can have many different causes, some more serious than others. It’s essential to be aware of the potential causes of arm pain so that you can seek treatment and relief as soon as possible.

If you’re experiencing arm pain, you should consult a doctor or other medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. With the proper care, you can soon get back to living your life without pain.

Heart Attack

One of the most common symptoms of a heart attack is chest pain. This pain can be sharp and sudden, or it may feel like a dull ache that radiates from the chest to the arms, neck, or jaw. However, arm pain down either arm can also be a symptom of a heart attack; in some cases, arm pain may be the only symptom.

A recent systematic review indicated that arm pain (in either arm) and shoulder pain are more prevalent symptoms of a heart attack in women than in men. It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to seek medical care with arm pain, especially with recent onset.

This pain often starts gradually and gets worse over time. It may feel like a muscle ache or stiffness and may worsen with activity.

If you experience arm pain along with other heart attack symptoms, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.

Traumatic Injuries

Many acute injuries can cause arm pain, from broken bones to rotator cuff tears. Broken bones are one of the most common arm injuries and often occur after a fall or other impact.

The pain from a broken bone is usually sharp and severe and may be accompanied by bruising or swelling.

A muscle tear can also cause arm pain. Muscles in the neck and shoulder area are particularly susceptible to tears, as they are often overused.

If you experience arm pain after a fall or other impact, it’s essential to seek medical attention to rule out a muscle, ligament, tendon tear, or broken bone.

Repetitive Injuries

Pinched Nerve

One of the most common causes of arm pain is a pinched nerve. This occurs when pressure is applied to a nerve, usually due to inflammation or injury. This can happen anywhere in the body but is commonly seen in the neck and shoulder area. The symptoms of a pinched nerve include pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness.

Rotator Cuff Injury

Another common cause of arm pain is a rotator cuff injury. A rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. These muscles and tendons can become injured or damaged due to overuse, trauma, or age-related wear and tear. The most common symptom of a rotator cuff injury is shoulder and upper arm pain, which may worsen with activity.

AC Joint Strain

The acromioclavicular (AC) joint is the point where the collarbone (clavicle) meets the shoulder blade (acromion). This joint can become strained or injured due to overuse, trauma, or age-related wear and tear. The most common symptom of an AC joint strain is shoulder and upper arm pain, which may worsen with activity.

Muscle Strain

Muscles in the neck and shoulder area are particularly susceptible to tears, as they are often overused. The pain from a muscle strain is usually sharp and severe and may be accompanied by bruising or swelling.

Arthritis

Arthritis is a common condition that causes inflammation, pain, and joint stiffness. The most common symptom of arthritis is a pain in the affected joint, which may worsen with activity.

What to Do If You Have Arm Pain

There are numerous causes of arm pain, most of which require medical attention. Therefore, it is essential to seek medical care for arm pain. In addition, heart-related pain will require immediate attention, and musculoskeletal pain will need a proper evaluation and treatment, potentially with imaging to confirm a diagnosis.

If you have arm pain after a fall or other impact, it’s essential to seek medical attention to rule out a muscle, ligament, tendon tear, or broken bone.

General Rules of Thumb

If it hurts when you move it and you can find a comfortable position with your pain, it is most likely a musculoskeletal injury. The arm pain may indicate a heart attack or a nerve if the pain is constant. Either of these requires medical attention. The take-home message here – don’t mess around with arm pain, as it can be a sign of something more serious.

Musculoskeletal Pain Treatment

The first step in treating musculoskeletal arm pain is to rest the area and avoid activities that worsen the pain.

You can also apply ice to the area for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. This will help reduce inflammation and pain.

If the arm pain is due to a muscle strain, you can take over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

If the arm pain is severe or does not improve with self-care, you may need to see a doctor or other healthcare provider. They will be able to provide more specific treatment for your case.

Support Neck and Shoulders for Arm Pain

One way to help prevent or relieve arm pain is to maintain good posture and alignment. This means sitting up straight with your shoulders back and down and your chin tucked in.

When standing, keep your weight evenly distributed on both feet. Avoid slouching or leaning to one side.

If you have to sit for long periods, take frequent breaks to move around and stretch. And when sleeping, use a pillow that supports your neck and shoulders.

Following these tips can help prevent or relieve upper arm pain. However, if you are still experiencing pain, you must see a doctor or other healthcare provider for further evaluation.

Physical Therapy for Arm Pain

If you have arm pain, physical therapy may be recommended as part of your treatment. Physical therapy can help improve range of motion and strength and reduce pain.

Your physical therapist will design a custom treatment plan for you, which may include exercises, stretches, and massages. They may also use heat or cold therapy to help reduce pain and inflammation. Supplements to help support musculoskeletal health can also be effective.

If you have arm pain, talk to your doctor or another healthcare provider about whether physical therapy may be right for you.

Conclusion

Upper arm pain is a common problem that can have many different causes. In most cases, it is due to a musculoskeletal injury such as a muscle strain, tendonitis, or bursitis. However, arm pain can also signify a more severe condition, such as a heart attack or nerve damage. Therefore, if you have arm pain, it is essential to seek medical attention to rule out any serious causes.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you recently experienced arm pain? Did you see your doctor about it? What other symptoms were connected?

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor to get specific medical advice for your situation.

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Mrsduque

My upper arm pain was diagnosed as polymyalgia rheumatica. The only relief is prednisone.

Avril

Just to say that there WAS pain in upper left arm (which, of course I was convinced meant heart attack might be imminent!) but a catalogue off aches pains and ills went away when trying a collagen supplement..

The Author

Dr. Camilla Moore is a Lifestyle Medicine Chiropractor and a freelance medical and health writer. She is a self-published author and you can read her other articles at her blog, The Wellness Cabinet where she writes about exercise, fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness.

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