Arm pain, usually on the left side, accompanied by a tightening of the chest, nausea, and difficulty breathing can be a symptom of coronary artery disease or even a heart attack. Arm pain can be caused by a wide variety of problems, ranging from joint inflammation and injuries to compressed nerves and trauma. Scroll down to read the causes of arm paint and treatments.
- Brachial plexus injury
- Broken arm
- Broken wrist/broken hand
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cervical disk herniation in the neck
- Dislocated elbow
- Meralgia paresthetica
- Hiatal hernia
- Pinched nerve
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rotator-cuff injury
- Sprains and strains
- Tennis elbow
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Squashed or trapped nerve
- Repetitive strain injury (RSI)
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
People with nerve damage or compressed nerves in the arm, wrist, elbow, or hand should avoid repetitive movements and take frequent breaks.
If you are experiencing arm pain caused by overuse or exertion, you can try to alleviate the pain at home. If your arm, shoulder, elbow, or wrist is swollen, apply ice packs (or a pack of frozen vegetables) to the area and use a sling to keep the arm still.
The treatment for arm pain depends on the underlying cause. Treatment for arm pain may include rest, elevation, an elastic wrap, a splint or sling, cold compresses, acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) for pain, and surgery. Additional treatment for arm pain caused by infection may include warm compresses and antibiotics.
Rest, ice, pain relievers, and stretching can all relieve nonurgent arm pain. Follow this approach and remember the acronym RICE for self-care:
- Rest: Take a break from your normal activities.
- Ice: Place an ice pack or bag of frozen peas on the sore area for 15 to 20 minutes three times a day.
- Compression: Use a compression bandage to reduce swelling.
- Elevation: Elevate your arm above heart level to help reduce swelling.
Seek emergency treatment if your arm, shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain is the result of severe trauma or comes on suddenly. If you have trouble moving your arm or see protruding bones, see your doctor right away, or go to the nearest emergency room.
Sudden arm, shoulder, chest, or back pain, accompanied by pressure in the chest, may signal a heart attack, and you should call 911 and seek emergency treatment immediately. Do not drive yourself to the hospital if you think you are having a heart attack.
See your doctor right away if you have:
- Arm, shoulder, or back pain that occurs with any sort of exertion and is relieved by rest — possibly signaling heart disease or chest discomfort caused by reduced blood flow to your heart muscle (angina)
- A sudden injury to your arm, particularly if you hear a snap or cracking sound
- Severe pain and swelling in your arm
- Trouble moving your arm normally or turning your arm from palm up to palm down and vice versa
- Tingling, weakness, or numbness in your arm