Do you suffer from arm pain? Arm pain may develop from abnormalities or injury to the bones, skin, nerves, joints, or blood vessels. Natural wear and tear, overuse, trauma, or underlying conditions can also cause arm pain. Any part of the arm may be affected, including the lower arm, upper arm, joints, or shoulder. You may experience pain for short-term or long-term, depending on the cause and severity. Arm pain may be described as mild to severe, and can occur in one or both arms. Depending upon the cause of your arm pain, you may experience discomfort while you are active or while you are at rest.
Arm pain is defined as discomfort or pain experienced anywhere throughout the arm. It can include pain in the wrist, elbow, and shoulder.
Arm pain can occur due to a variety of causes. The most common causes are injury or overuse. Depending on the cause, the pain may start suddenly and go away, or it may increase gradually.
Signs and Symptoms of Arm Pain
Arm pain can be mild to severe and exists in many different forms, from a shooting or stabbing pain to one that’s more of a dull ache. It can develop suddenly or gradually and may be accompanied by other symptoms, depending on the underlying condition.
Symptoms that may occur with arm pain include:
- Redness or bruising
- Limited range of motion
- Swollen lymph glands under the arm
Causes and Risk Factors of Arm Pain
Arm pain can develop due to numerous health conditions, including the following:
- Brachial plexus injury
- Broken arm
- Broken wrist or broken hand
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Cervical (neck) disk herniation
- De Quervain’s tenosynovitis
- Deep vein thrombosis of upper extremity
- Dislocated elbow
Pinched nerve (nerve compression)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Rotator cuff injury
- Sprains and strains
- Tennis elbow
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
Certain factors are known to increase the risk of developing arm pain from repetitive stress injuries and pinched nerves. These factors include:
Being a Woman Women have smaller carpal tunnels, and are therefore at a higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Thyroid Problems Thyroid disorders also increase the risk of carpal tunnel syndrome, for reasons that aren’t fully clear.
Diabetes Nerve damage related to diabetes may raise the risk of nerve compression.
Obesity A greater body weight can put more pressure on nerves, increasing the risk of compression.
Pregnancy Weight gain associated with pregnancy can also put extra pressure on nerves.
Overuse Any action related to a job or hobby that involves repetitive hand, wrist, or shoulder movement increases the risk of repetitive stress injuries, including tendinitis, or pinched nerves, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Treatments for arm pain
Treatments for arm pain will vary on the cause and the severity of your arm pain.
Treatments for arm pain can include the following:
Pain medication. For some cases, pain in the arm may be severe enough that your doctor will prescribe pain medication.
Physical therapy. You may need to treat some arm pain with physical therapy, particularly when you have a limited range of motion.
Anti-inflammatory medications. For pain due to inflammation, anti-inflammatory medications like corticosteroids can help reduce the underlying cause and the subsequent pain. Anti-inflammatory drugs are available as oral medications, injections, and intravenous medications.
Surgery. In severe cases of arm pain, surgery may be necessary. Examples include torn ligaments and broken bones.
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In addition to the medications your doctor can prescribe for arm pain, you can use a variety of treatments at home.
Examples of home remedies for arm pain include:
RestSometimes, all the body needs is rest. Rest the area in pain, and avoid strenuous exercise and movement.
Over-the-counter (OTC) painkillersIf you don’t want to make an appointment to see your doctor and your pain is mild, OTC pain medications like aspirin or ibuprofen can help treat your discomfort. Don’t use these medications for longer than their recommended use.
IceIcing injuries can often help to reduce swelling and inflammation. Use an ice pack, covered in a towel, for 20 minutes at a time on the painful area. Wait for at least an hour between ice packs.
Keep your arm elevated to help reduce swelling and pain.
If any of these remedies make your pain worse, stop the home treatment immediately and consult your doctor.
CompressionWrapping the area where you’re experiencing pain with an elastic bandage or brace can help reduce swelling and prevent you from extending a joint too far, encouraging healing.
Preventing arm pain
In many cases, arm pain occurs due to a preventable injury or condition. You can do the following to prevent injury and arm pain:
- stretch regularly, particularly before exercising
- lift objects carefully
- wear protective equipment while playing sports
- make sure you have the correct form for the exercises you’re performing to prevent injury
- stay in shape