Pain in the left arm can be caused due to various reasons. It can also be an indication of some other ailment. Proper diagnosis of the pain can assist in its treatment. Here are some common causes behind the pain in left arm.
The human body has a very complex structure. Every part of the body, like the bones, ligaments, nerves, tendons, as well as the muscles are linked together. This is the reason why when you visit a doctor, he/she asks you infinite questions in order to perfectly diagnose your symptoms.
Left arm pain is more commonly seen in middle-aged women around the age of 40. However, sometimes, it may be seen before the middle age as well. In some cases, the pain may come and go or may keep increasing, and it can be debilitating. If the pain is acute and severe, causing you to writhe, it is better to call emergency services immediately.
Types of Pain
Pain in the arm can range from a mild discomfort to unbearable agony. Arm pain can be anywhere from the fingertips to the shoulder. It can appear only in one arm, known as unilateral arm pain, or it can also be caused in both the arms, known as bilateral pain. There are various degrees of this pain. Sometimes, the pain can be dull, while at other times, it will result in a sharp, shooting pain. Also, the pain in the arm can be constant; however, there are also cases where the pain is intermittent. Pain in the left arm can be of two types — either chronic or acute.
When a person is suffering from constant and persistent left arm pain for almost or over three months, the pain is known to be chronic in nature.
The sudden and sharp pain in left arm is known as acute. It is an alarm system of the body to inform you that something is wrong. In most cases, acute pain can be overcome by medication or other measures, while most cases of chronic pain have to undergo long-term treatment.
Due to Injury
Women, who have undergone surgery for removal of either one or both the breasts due to cancer, generally witness pain in the arms after the surgery.
Brachial Plexus Injury
Brachial plexus is the network of nerves that sends signals to your shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand from your spine. These nerves can be injured due to stretching and sometimes, can also get torn, causing severe damage. It is very common in contact sports. Most of these injuries heal on their own. However, severe damage may require surgery.
In case any accident has caused your arm to break, you are advised to visit a nearby healthcare facility immediately. You must consult a doctor for primary treatment.
Strains and Sprains
These are common injuries and can be a result of any activity. Sprain is caused when ligaments are stretched beyond a certain point and strain is caused due to tearing of muscles or tendons. Both are known to be self-healing injuries. However, if the arm is not given proper rest and is overused the pain can be very persistent and worsen the injury.
Rotator Cuff Injury
The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that assist in movement and stabilizing the shoulder. Any kind of lesion in these muscles can result in severe and gradually accelerating pain if left untreated.
Our muscles are attached to the bone by cords that are thick and fibrous. These cords are called tendons. A sudden injury, or repetitive use of a body part may lead to inflammation in the tendons. This condition is known as tendinitis. Some variations of this condition are tennis elbow, pitcher’s shoulder, golfer’s elbow, swimmer’s shoulder and jumper’s knee.
Due to Disorders
It is a kind of joint disorder whereby the joints of the bones get inflamed. Severe form of this disorder can render a person incapacitated.
It is a defect in the spine, specifically in the bones that make up the spine. It can cause small stress fracture in the spine that can be the cause of radiating pain in the left arm.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
It is a painful condition in the arm arising out of a pinched nerve in the wrist. It can result in numbness, tingling sensation, and radiating pain in the arm. It can be cured by proper treatment.
De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis
It is a disorder that affects the tendons on the thumb region of the wrist. It is a very painful condition and in serious cases it becomes difficult to use the thumb for any activity.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet is the space between the collarbone and first rib. Due to bad posture or excessive pressure the nerves and blood vessels in this area might get compressed resulting in pain and numbness in the arm.
Left arm pain, along with tightening of the chest and difficulty in breathing has always been considered the primary indication of an onset of a heart attack. Thus, if you have any of these symptoms you must visit a physician.
Due to Lifestyle
Stress, either due to personal or professional issues, if not dealt with, can trigger panic attacks. Acute pain in the left arm can be caused due to such attacks. Many people do not think that psychosomatic problems can also induce left arm pain. The pain felt is due to the complex link between the mind and body.
Posture while Sleeping
Sleeping in an unhealthy and awkward position for a very long time can cause a pinching sensation in the arm. A pinched nerve may be the cause of pain or numbness in the arm. Dead arm can also be a source of left arm pain as well as tingling in the arm. Dead arm can be caused by poor circulation as well as lack of movement or if the arm was laid in an inapt position.
There is a possibility that if you are on prescription drugs they could be the culprit causing the pain. It is better to cross-check the side effects of the medication. If arm pain is not listed as one of the side effects it does not mean that the medication cannot be causing it. Do take advice from your doctor.
Spicy and oily foods can result in intestinal gas which may, in a few cases, cause pain in the left arm.
Based on the diagnosis by the doctor, there are several ways that can be adopted to manage the pain.
- NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
- Behavior modification
- Narcotics, such as morphine, or codeine
- Localized anesthetic
- Physical therapy
- Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing
In case of the following symptoms, contact your doctor immediately:
- Pain in the left arm, neck, and/or jaw
- Repetitive uncomfortable pressure in the middle of the chest
- Difficulty in breathing
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.