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Overview of Arm Pain: Meaning, symptoms, causes & treatment

Team AckoDec 12, 2023

Arm Pain (AP) can range from mild discomfort to severe pain and is caused by a variety of factors. It's important to identify the cause of your AP in order to receive proper treatment and prevent further complications. It is a common condition that causes discomfort and disability in many people. This pain includes wrist, elbow, and even shoulder pain due to various causes. The most common causes include damage and, in certain situations, a heart attack. But, if your heart condition is good, but you continue to have AP, you must explore this topic further by reading ahead to educate yourself on its causes and symptoms to see how it can help alleviate your discomfort.

Arm Pain



What is Arm Pain?

Arm Pain is a discomfort or pain that is felt in the arm and can range from mild to severe. It can be caused by various factors such as injury, overuse, or underlying medical conditions such as a heart attack. The pain can be localised to a specific area of the arm or felt throughout the entire arm. It can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, stiffness, or weakness. Depending on the reason, the pain may begin quickly and then subside, or it may build gradually. Thus, it's important to identify the cause of your AP in order to receive proper treatment and prevent further complications.

What causes Arm Pain?

Arm Pain can develop due to several causes, including the following.

1. Pinched nerve

When tissues or bones in your elbow, shoulder, or neck compress or press against a nerve, this happens. It causes numbness, sharp pain, tingling, and muscle weakness.

2. Muscle soreness

This is a common discomfort that arises after strenuous activity and physical workouts in the gym. Lifting weights and engaging in intense exercise can cause muscle tears. The soreness may linger for 24 to 48 hours and eventually subsides. Muscle soreness can cause muscular discomfort, arm and shoulder heaviness, and difficulty doing physical activities.

3. Muscle sprain

Sprains are caused by the straining or tearing of tendons or ligaments. These are common injuries that occur frequently. The symptoms may include swelling, bruising, impaired joint movement, and an unstable joint.

4. Tendonitis

This happens when your tendons get damaged, which commonly happens in the wrists, elbows or shoulders. It can induce mild to severe pain. Tennis elbow is one such example of tendonitis. It might be the consequence of an injury or overuse. It can cause minor swelling, soreness, and dull, throbbing pain.

5. Rotator cuff injury 

The rotator cuff is a muscle and tendon structure in your shoulder. It enables the shoulder to move or remain stationary. As humans age, the tendon inside the rotator cuff starts wearing off or breaking. A specific group of people, such as painters and basketball or baseball players, tend to experience this pain since they perform upward movements in their daily lives, which may cause discomfort and damage. It can induce dull to severe AP and arm weakness.

6. Broken bones

Broken or cracked bones can induce excruciating pain in the arm, including swelling, bruising, a deformed structure, and the inability to move your hand.

7. Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that mostly affects the joints and can induce pain in different parts of the body, including the arms. It can cause warm, swollen, tender, and stiff joints, followed by weakness.

8. Angina

Angina is a type of chest discomfort that develops when your heart does not receive enough oxygen. It can produce arm and shoulder pain, as well as heaviness in the chest, neck, and back. Angina usually indicates an underlying cardiac disease. Additional signs and symptoms may include chest pain, nausea, breathlessness, and dizziness.

9. Heart attack

Heart attacks happen when blood cannot reach the heart because of a blockage that prevents the heart from receiving oxygen. If oxygen does not return immediately, this might cause parts of the heart muscle to die. You may also experience other symptoms, such as pain in one or both arms, breathing difficulty, pain in other parts of your upper body, nausea, a cold sweat, chest pain, and dizziness.

Symptoms of Arm Pain

The most common symptoms of Arm Pain may include the following.

  • Pain in the wrist, elbow, or shoulder

  • Weakness in the arms

  • Discomfort in one or both arms

  • Upper Arm Pain

  • Sudden Arm Pain

  • Skin discoloration or redness on the arm

  • Swelling of the arm, wrist, or elbow swelling

  • Arm joint stiffness

  • Pain that becomes worse as you exercise

  • Tingling or numbness

  • Muscular pain and tenderness

  • Limited range of motion

Diagnosing Arm Pain

To determine the reason for your AP, your doctor will ask you questions about your health and family history and may perform a physical examination as well. Depending on the symptoms, your doctor may recommend the following tests to determine the source of your pain.

  • Physical examination: To assess your mobility, your doctor may ask you to raise your arms or do other basic activities. This can help them in determining the location and origin of any potential injuries or disorders.

  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help your doctor in detecting the conditions that might cause AP, such as diabetes or conditions that cause joint inflammation.

  • X-ray: X-rays can help diagnose broken or fractured bones.

  • Cardiac check-up: If your doctor suspects that your AP is related to potential heart difficulties, he or she may prescribe tests to check how your heart works and the blood flow through your heart.

  • Ultrasound: Ultrasounds produce an image of the inside of the body by using high-frequency sound waves. These can enable your doctor to detect joint, ligament, and tendon disorders.

  • MRIs and CT scans: These may be performed to provide a more detailed view of soft tissue and bones to detect any possible disorder.

Treatment of Arm Pain

Treatment options for Arm Pain depend on the underlying reason and intensity of your pain. However, some potential treatment options may include the following.

  • Medication: In certain circumstances, AP is so intense that your doctor must prescribe pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and acetaminophen.

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: For the pain caused by inflammation, anti-inflammatory drugs such as corticosteroids are recommended to help alleviate the underlying cause as well as the associated pain. Anti-inflammatory medications are obtainable in oral, injectable, and intravenous forms.

  • Physical therapy: It may be required to manage certain AP, especially when you have restricted mobility.

  • Surgery: Surgery may be required in serious conditions of AP. For example, fractured bones and damaged ligaments. 

At-home treatments 

Apart from the medication, you can try the following at-home treatments for Arm Pain.

  • Avoid strenuous exercises and take enough rest.

  • Apply an ice pack to reduce swelling and inflammation.

  • Use over-the-counter painkillers to help alleviate mild cases of AP.

  • Use a brace or an elastic bandage that may prevent you from extending a joint too far and help reduce the inflammation, thereby encouraging healing.  

  • Elevate your arm to help relieve swelling and inflammation. 

How to prevent Arm Pain

Sometimes, AP is caused mainly by a simple disease or injury. However, the damage and pain can be avoided by the following.

  • Never forget to do stretching, especially before doing workouts.

  • Exercise using the correct techniques to avoid injury.

  • Use safety measures when participating in sports.

  • Maintain your fitness by doing regular exercise.

  • While lifting heavier objects, do it with caution.

  • Try to avoid doing the same arm and hand movements repeatedly.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to Arm Pain.


What is Arm Pain and its causes?

Arm Pain is a discomfort that is felt in the arm and can range from mild to severe. The pain can be localised to a specific area of the arm or can be felt throughout the entire arm. Causes include repeated actions, injury, etc. 

What is the best treatment for Arm Pain?

Some potential treatment options for AP may include Over-The-Counter medications, physical therapy in the case of restricted mobility; and surgery in the case of serious conditions like broken bones or torn ligaments. However, some at-home treatments can also be tried in case of mild injury and pain, which may include: taking enough rest, applying ice packs to the affected areas, using braces and elastic bandages, and elevating your arm and hand to help alleviate swelling and inflammation.

What can be the reason for Arm Pain?

There can be several potential reasons for Arm Pain, such as a pinched nerve, muscle soreness, muscle sprain, tendonitis, rotator cuff injury, broken bones, rheumatoid arthritis, angina, and a heart attack.


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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