My arm pain is serious How do I know?  

 My arm pain is serious How do I know?   

Closeup shot of an unrecognizable young man suffering from a sports injury while exercising outdoors


    Limbs in humans help humans to do many things in life by providing means of movement and acts as a survival mechanism. There are a number of muscles that help the limb to move. For the upper limb, specifically the arm, the muscles not only help to do big movements such as raising the arms, but also helps to do fine motor movement that is precise such as fastening a button. Any problems causing the arm to be dysfunctional or experience discomfort would make a person find doctors for explanation and treatment.

    There are many causes that could precipitate into an arm pain. Typically, the arm pain is due to injury, irritation or inflammation affecting the arm directly or the neck including the upper spine. Simple everyday activities such as typing, playing sports and lifting heavy objects can easily cause arm pain.  Parts of the body could also be the cause of the arm pain such as problems arising from skin, nerves, muscle, joints, veins or heart. Other conditions that could lead to arm pain are rheumatoid arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow and frozen shoulder.

    When a person experiences arm pain, it may affect the person’s ability to accomplish daily tasks and to have a fulfilling day. Arm pain in general does not directly link with anything serious. However, it can become serious that a person has to get urgent medical advice as failing to do so might not just cause worsening pain, but also possibilities of life-threatening conditions. How would you know if the arm pain is serious? Below are signs that should indicate the arm pain is not something to be taken lightly and the need to get yourself to nearby healthcare facility is vital:

  • Feeling the arm hurt when exercising or doing activities but the pain subsides when taking rest.
  • Swollen arm associated with fever and or shivery.
  • Extremely painful arm.
  • Difficulty to move the arm.
  • The arm has been involved in injuries and a snapping sound was heard or bleeding, the arm changed shape such as protruding bone in the arm or unusual position that makes returning the arm in normal position is impossible.
  • Feeling pain moving from the shoulder down to the left arm including feeling pressured, squeezing in the chest, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain.

       As mentioned, arm pain is unusually anything serious unless the above signs are spotted. In most cases of arm pain, generally, a person is not obligated to get themselves to meet healthcare professionals except if the pain does not go away for more than weeks. There are some things a person can do to help ease the pain, this includes use cold packs onto the arm especially the pain area for 5 minutes for 3 times a day, opt for painkillers like paracetamol that is easily available as over-the-counter (OTC) medicine and elevate the arm if there is sign of swollen arm. These can be done for a couple of days and should be helping to ease the pain.

       Since arm pain can be caused by many causes and its symptoms can vary, it is essential to differentiate which is serious and which is mild. It is important to meet a doctor if you are feeling worried about the arm pain. Do not self-diagnose as doing so might cause more harm rather than good especially in cases of arm pain caused by heart disease such as heart attack. A person may actually die if treatment is not given promptly. Thus, understanding arm pain not only helps to alleviate the symptoms but also helps to save lives.


Michael Burden