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Arm Symptoms

By

Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are the signs of arm problems?

Arm symptoms include pain, numbness, weakness, stiffness, or problems moving one or both arms. If you have arm pain, it may be described as sharp, dull, stabbing, burning or throbbing, ranging in intensity from mild to severe. Sometimes, pain perceived in the arm is actually referred pain that originates from injury or disease elsewhere in the body.

Arm symptoms can result from damage or injury to any of the structures in the arm, including bones, joints, tendons, nerves, muscles, connective tissue, skin, or blood vessels. Arm symptoms may involve the entire arm or may be restricted to the upper arm, elbow, lower arm, or even smaller areas. The symptoms may be constant or variable and may improve or worsen with movement. Injuries and arthritis are among the most common causes of arm symptoms.

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Arm symptoms are often associated with diseases or conditions that affect the nerves and muscles. Examples include cerebral palsy and polymyositis, which is an inflammatory disorder of the muscles. Arm symptoms can be caused by injuries or trauma to the shoulder area, including the brachial plexus, a bundle of nerves that transmit signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm and hand. Disorders of the spine, such as infection, fracture, tumor, or disc disease, can also produce symptoms in the arm.

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Chronic conditions that affect other or more widespread areas of the body, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause arm symptoms. Infections of the skin and underlying tissues (cellulitis) or bone (osteomyelitis) are additional causes of arm symptoms. The time course of arm symptoms varies widely, depending on the cause. Symptoms caused by injury often have a sudden onset. In other cases, arm symptoms from wear-and-tear damage develop slowly and may persist or worsen over time.

Pain in the arm can also be a sign of decreased blood flow to the heart (angina pectoris) or heart attack (myocardial infarction). The sudden onset of weakness or numbness in the arm, especially if it is occurs on only one side of the body, can be a sign of stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have upper arm pain, believe you may be having a heart attack, or experience sudden weakness or numbness in one arm.

If you do not have the above symptoms, but your arm symptoms are persistent or cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Sep 29, 2016

© 2017 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Hand/wrist/arm problems. FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/526.html
  2. What is Angina? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Angina/Angina_WhatIs.html

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