Arm pain is very common. It is usually caused by a slight injury and it tends to be manageable with the use of home remedies. Some of these remedies include ice packs and warm compresses, taking over the counter pain killers, resting the arm, and raising the arm above the leave of the heart. However, if the pain does not subside after a few days, you should seek medical help.
When Arm Pain Requires Attention:
There are certain situations where you should make an appointment with your physician, including:
- If the pain starts when you exercise and stops when you rest, which could point to angina
- If you believe you may have broken your arm
- If your arm swells up and becomes red and hot, or if you develop a fever, as this could mean you have an infection
Other causes of arm pain mean that you need emergency medical assistance and you should call 911. These include:
- If the pain is sudden and you feel like your chest get squeezed, which could mean a stroke or heart attack
- If your arm is definitely broken
The Causes of Arm Pain:
There are many reasons as to why the arm may hurt, with the most common causes being:
- Simple strain, which means you have overexerted your arm, asking it to do things that it is not yet capable of doing. It means that the tissue in your arm is stretched, torn, or twisted, but this will heal. Using painkillers, ice packs, and warm compresses until it subsides.
- Golfer’s or tennis elbow, which you feel just inside or outside your elbow, usually after overusing the tendons and muscles in the elbow. It can last for months, but will get better.
- A trapped nerve, caused by general wear and tear in the bones and joints of the spine. This leaves a space for a nerve to become trapped in, which can radiate to the arm. Trapped nerves may also occur in the arm, such as with carpal tunnel syndrome (located in the wrist) or cubital tunnel syndrome (located in the elbow).
- Bursitis, which happens when fluids start to build up in the elbow joint. Usually, over the counter painkillers can relieve this, but there is a chance of infections, in which case antibiotics are needed. Pain usually lasts for a few weeks, and the swelling for months.
- Repetitive strain injury, which happens when your arm has to do the same thing again and again, which starts to hurt. The pain stops when you no longer perform that movement. Tendonitis or bursitis can also cause this.
- Angina, which is a problem with the heart, meaning the muscles of the heart do not receive sufficient blood. This happens after a narrowing and hardening of the major arteries. Usually, this comes with tight, heavy, or dull chest pain, sometimes radiation to the back, jaw, neck, or arm. It often starts with physical activity and lasts for a short period of time. Some people only get arm pain when they have angina. This is a serious condition that means you are at increased risk of heart disease.
There are also some rarer causes of pain in the arm, for which you should seek medical attention. These include:
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, whereby the wrist’s tendons become inflamed
- Cervical rib, which means you have an additional rib that can affect your arm.
- Nerve inflammation in the arm, which is called brachial and ulnar neuritis. This is common in people who have had shingles.
- Brachial plexus injury, which is a form of nerve damage common in contact sport athletes and after vehicle injuries
- Elbow arthritis