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Arm pain

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 27, 2023.

Definition

Arm pain can have many different causes. These may include wear and tear, overuse, injury, a pinched nerve, and certain health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia. Depending on the cause, arm pain can start suddenly or develop over time.

Arm pain may be related to problems with the muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments and nerves. It also may be related to problems with the joints of the shoulders, elbows and wrists. Often arm pain is caused by a problem in your neck or upper spine. Arm pain, especially pain that radiates into your left arm, can be a symptom of a heart attack.

Causes

Possible causes of arm pain include:

When to see a doctor

Call for medical help right away or go to the emergency room if you have:

See your health care provider as soon as possible if you have:

Make an appointment with your health care provider if you have:

Self-care

For some severe arm injuries, you may begin with home care until you can get to medical care. If you think that you have a broken arm or wrist, splint the area in the position it's found to help hold your arm still. Put ice on the area.

If you have a compressed nerve, a strain injury or an injury from a repetitive activity, consistently follow any treatments recommended by your health care provider. These may include physical therapy, avoiding certain activities or doing exercises. They also may include having good posture and using a brace or support wrap. You may try taking frequent breaks at work and during repetitive activities, such as playing an instrument or practicing your golf swing.

Most other types of arm pain may get better on their own, especially if you start R.I.C.E. measures soon after your injury.

Try pain relievers you can buy without a prescription. Products you put on your skin, such as creams, patches and gels, may help. Some examples are products that include menthol, lidocaine or diclofenac sodium (Voltaren Arthritis Pain). You also can try oral pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve).

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