If your arm hurts, your first thought maybe that you injured your arm. Pain in one part of the body can sometimes originate elsewhere. Pain in your left arm could mean you have a bone or joint injury, a pinched nerve, or a problem with your heart.
Read on to learn more about the causes of left arm pain and what symptoms could signal a serious problem.
There are many reasons why you might have pain in your left arm, including complications from arthritis and other chronic diseases. From a simple strain to a heart problem, here are a few possible causes:
A blood clot or rupture in a coronary artery can stop the flow of blood to part of your heart. When that happens, the muscle can quickly become damaged. Without treatment, the heart muscle starts to die.
Additional symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Pain in the back, neck, shoulder, or jaw
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Light-headedness or fainting
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
Some people have intense symptoms. Others have symptoms that come and go or maybe as mild as a case of indigestion.
Angina is a symptom of coronary heart disease. It means your heart muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood.
Angina causes symptoms like those of a heart attack, but usually lasts only a few minutes. It usually gets worse when you’re active and better when you rest.
Bursa is the fluid-filled sack between the bone and moving parts of a joint.
When the bursa becomes inflamed, it’s called bursitis. Bursitis of the shoulder is often the result of repetitive movement. The risk of bursitis increases with age.
The pain usually increases as you move or if you lie down on your arm or shoulder. You may not be able to fully rotate your shoulder. Other symptoms include burning and tingling.
FRACTURED OR BROKEN BONE
Despite the pain, sometimes there’s no outward sign that you’ve fractured or broken a bone in your arm or wrist.
A broken bone in your arm, wrist, or hand can cause pain that gets worse when you move. Other symptoms include swelling and numbness. It’s possible to have a bone fracture or break in your arm or wrist even though your arm appears normal.
Disks are the pads between the bones in the spinal column. They’re the shock absorbers of your spine. A herniated disk in your neck is one that has ruptured and is pressing on the nerves.
The pain may start in your neck. It may then move to your shoulder and down your arm. You may also feel numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation in your arm. Pain may increase when you move.
PINCHED NERVE, OR CERVICAL RADICULOPATHY
A pinched nerve is one that’s compressed or inflamed. It can be a result of a herniated disk due to trauma or a wear-and-tear injury.
Symptoms of a pinched nerve are similar to those of a herniated disk. They may include numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation in your arm. You may feel an increase in pain when you move.
ROTATOR CUFF TEAR
Lifting a heavy object or performing repetitive motions can lead to a torn tendon in your shoulder’s rotator cuff. It significantly weakens the shoulder and makes it difficult to carry out daily tasks.
Rotator cuff injuries tend to hurt more if you lie down on your side. The arm pain gets worse when you move your arm a certain way. It can also make your arm considerably weaker. Range of motion in your shoulder is also affected.
SPRAINS AND STRAINS
A sprain is when you stretch or tear a ligament. An arm sprain can happen when you start to fall and brace yourself with your arms. A strain is when you twist or pull a tendon or muscle. It can happen when you lift something the wrong way or overstress your muscles.
Bruising, swelling, and weakness are common symptoms.
Tendons are the flexible bands of tissue that connect bones and muscles. When tendons are inflamed, it’s called tendonitis. Tendinitis of the shoulder or elbow could cause arm pain. The risk of tendinitis increases as you age.
Symptoms of tendinitis are similar to symptoms of bursitis.
VASCULAR THORACIC OUTLET SYNDROME
This is a condition in which blood vessels under the collarbone are compressed due to trauma or repetitive injury. If left untreated, it can lead to progressive nerve damage.
Vascular thoracic outlet syndrome may cause numbness, tingling, and weakness of your arm. In some cases, your arm can swell. Other signs include discoloration of the hand, cold hand or arm, and a weak pulse in the arm.
Heart attacks can come on suddenly or start slowly. The most common symptom is chest discomfort or pain.
If you think you might be having a heart attack, dial 911, or call your local emergency services, immediately. Emergency personnel can begin to help as soon as they arrive. When it comes to heart muscle damage, every second count.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind:
- If you’ve previously been diagnosed with heart disease, left arm pain should always be investigated.
- A bone that doesn’t heal properly will give you more trouble in the long run. If there’s a possibility that you’ve fractured or broken a bone, see your doctor right away.
- Without treatment, bursitis, tendinitis, and rotator cuff tears can lead to complications like frozen shoulder, which are much harder to treat. If you can’t fully rotate your shoulder, elbow, or wrist, see your doctor. Early treatment can prevent it from getting worse.
- For strains and sprains, try resting your arm and keeping it elevated if possible. Apply ice for 20 minutes several times a day. Use over-the-counter pain medication.
While some of these conditions are not serious, they can become serious without proper care. Call your doctor if home remedies don’t help, the problem is getting worse, or it’s starting to interfere with your quality of life.
Precision Pain Care and Rehabilitation has two convenient locations in the Richmond Hill – Queens and New Hyde Park – Long Island. Call the Richmond Hill office at (718) 215-1888, or (516) 419-4480 for Long Island office, to arrange an appointment with our Interventional Pain Management Specialist, Dr. Jeffrey Chacko.