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Arm Pain


Your arm pain may be caused by a number of conditions. Examples include arthritis, nerve problems, or an awkward position while you sleep. X-rays did not show a broken bone in your arm or wrist. Arm pain may be a sign of a serious condition that needs immediate care, such as a heart attack.


Call 911 for any of the following:

You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:

  • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
  • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
  • Trouble breathing or a fast, fluttery heartbeat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have severe pain, or pain that spreads from your arm to other areas.
  • You have swelling, tingling, or numbness in your hand or fingers, or the skin turns blue.
  • You cannot move your arm.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.


You may need any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to take this medicine safely.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.


  • Rest your arm as directed. A sling may be used to keep your arm from moving while it heals.
  • Apply ice as directed. Ice helps decrease pain and swelling. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Apply it to your arm for 20 minutes every few hours, or as directed. Ask how many times to apply ice each day, and for how many days.
  • Elevate your arm above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm on pillows or blankets to keep the area elevated comfortably.
  • Adjust your position if you work in front of a computer. You may need arm or wrist supports or change the height of your chair.
  • Keep a pain record. Write down when your pain happens and how severe it is. Include any other symptoms you have with your pain. A record will help you keep track of pain cycles. Bring the record with you to your follow-up visits. It may also help your healthcare provider find out what is causing your pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You may need physical therapy. You may need to see an orthopedic specialist. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.