Pain in the arm can indicate a variety of issues ranging in severity. Though general pain can often be traced to exertion or minor injury, a medical professional should evaluate long-lasting or intense arm pain, as the symptom could be indicative of a more serious condition.
Sprains can develop due to strenuous activity to which the body is unaccustomed. Overstretching, twisting, or tearing tissues can cause pain, but the problem usually heals after a few days or weeks of rest. If the pain is intense, over-the-counter painkillers and ice or heat can alleviate the sensation. If the pain continues for more than a couple of weeks, visit a doctor.
Tennis elbow is a minor injury to tendons that usually follows an overuse of those near the elbow from motions such as swinging a tennis racket. The tendons tear or swell, causing pain or discomfort around the outer elbow. Tennis elbow can last a long time and cause intermittent pain for weeks.
Angina causes spurts of pain at random intervals that last a few minutes. This heart condition is typically associated with chest pain and occurs due to insufficient blood flow in the arteries, culminating in a dull, heavy tightness in the chest. In some cases, this ache spreads to the arms. If a person feels this symptom regularly following physical activity or general strain, he should speak to a doctor about testing for angina.
Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
Carpel tunnel syndrome occurs following a pinched nerve in the carpal tunnel, which protects the nerves associated with hand movement. People with carpal tunnel experience pain, tingling, and numbness in their fingers, hands, and arms. Symptoms are intermittent and result in restricted movement and a tendency to drop things because this condition affects the grip.
Bursitis results from inflammation of the fluid-filled sacks called bursae that buffer tendons and bones. Overuse injuries cause the bursae to swell up, which leads to pain and tenderness. The shoulders, arms, and knees are the areas most often impacted by bursitis. Though not a serious condition, most people use over-the-counter painkillers and ice packs to treat bursitis. It is also important to rest the arm until the inflammation subsides.
Arm pain isn’t always associated with heart attacks. The latter condition occurs when the supply of oxygen-rich blood doesn’t reach the heart, preventing the heart muscles from functioning. People with angina are vulnerable to heart attacks and both have similar signs. Unlike angina, however, chest and arm pain linked with heart attacks do not fade. Chest pain progresses to a constant ache that runs down the left arm and left side of the body. These symptoms point to the need for immediate medical attention.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that causes impaired function in the joints, especially the elbows, wrists, hands, and feet. People with this progressive autoimmune disease develop painful swelling and stiffness that gradually results in joint deformity. Arthritis can strike at any age, although there are two forms: juvenile rheumatoid arthritis which affects children age 16 or younger, and an adult form. Common symptoms include tenderness in the joints, fatigue, weight loss, and morning stiffness. The symptoms of this condition mimic other diseases, so it can be difficult to diagnose.
Bulging or herniated disks occur when there is damage to the rubbery cushion between vertebrae. In a healthy state, the disks offer flexibility to the spine and act as shock absorbers. A herniated disc in the neck causes pain that radiates throughout the neck, shoulders, and down to the arms, and hands. Herniated discs are commonly caused by trauma or injury in that area. Before considering surgery, a doctor will recommend medication, rest, and physiotherapy.
Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff is the group of muscles surrounding the shoulder. It keeps the upper arm bone firmly in the shoulder socket. An injury to the rotator cuff makes it painful to move the shoulder joint. People most often sustain damage to these tendons after a fall or lifting from the wrong position, or from gradual degeneration associated with the aging process. Severe rotator cuff injuries require surgical repair.
Inflammation of tendons, the flexible tissues connecting muscles to bones, causes tendinitis. This repetitive stress injury may affect the elbow, shoulder, or wrist. Often, people with poor posture or technique during activities such as golf, tennis, or baseball develop tendinitis. Infections can also cause tendonitis to develop. In rare cases, the condition can also occur due to a cat or dog bite.