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What are the Most Common Causes of Arm Pain?

By Patti Kate
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are various causes of arm pain, including medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, bursitis, and tendinitis. Injuries to the arm may also cause arm pain. Such injuries include fractures or contusions. Puncture wounds to the arm may also cause arm pain. A heart attack can produce symptoms that may include arm pain.

When an individual complains of non-specific arm pain, this may be related to any of several minor issues. It can also be a symptom of something more serious that may require immediate medical care, especially if other symptoms are present. Shortness of breath and chest pain that radiates down the left arm, for example, may indicate an impending heart attack, although this is not always the case.

Muscle pain in the arm is a common complaint of those who perform arm exercises without proper warm up. Warming up muscles helps to increase blood flow to the muscles that will be used during exercise. Without practicing this technique, however, the individual may experience spasms or muscle arm pain after exercise.

A common condition that can cause upper or lower arm pain is bursitis. Located in the arm is a pocket, or cavity, known as a bursa, which acts as a padding between bones and tendons. For various reasons, the bursa of the arm may become inflamed. The condition, known as bursitis, may cause extreme arm pain and discomfort, especially if the arm is being overly used. Therefore, prolonged repetitive movements of the limb can lead to this type of arm pain.

Similar to bursitis is a condition known as tendinitis, which causes swelling, pain, and inflammation of tendons. This is typically characterized by arm pain, or pain in the shoulder or leg. Tendinitis sufferers may have to limit activities or participate in rehabilitation. Physical therapy for both tendinitis and bursitis may strengthen tendons and muscles, thus alleviating chronic arm pain.

Arthritis is a common ailment of the joints that causes immobility, swelling, and pain to specific areas of the body. There are different forms of arthritis, a most severe and debilitating form of which is rheumatoid arthritis. Factors for developing this disease, which has been known to cause chronic arm pain, may be genetic.

Neurological dysfunction and nerve damage may cause upper or lower arm pain. A physician, preferably a neurologist, must diagnose this condition. Simple x-rays may not provide enough information to make a proper diagnosis, and other testing may be needed. A test such as a computerized tomography (CT) scan or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan can often reveal more specific causes of arm pain associated with neurological disorders.

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