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General Practice 2023

Pain in the left armço: 11 main causes (and what to do)

Pain in the left armço: 11 main causes (and what to do)
Pain in the left armço: 11 main causes (and what to do)

Pain in the left arm can arise from several causes, being common due to inflammation of the tendons or bursa in the shoulder, elbow or wrist region, as in the case of tendinitis or bursitis, but it can also arise due to compression of the local nerves.

Also, pain in the left arm could be a sign of a serious problem and could be a medical emergency, such as a heart attack, angina or a fracture, for example, so it is important to seek medical help immediately.

Depending on its cause, pain in the left arm may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as swelling in the arm, weakness in the muscles in the area, tingling sensation or joint stiffness. In these cases, it is important to consult the orthopedist, to assess the characteristics of pain, presence of other symptoms and, thus, be diagnosed and start the most appropriate treatment.

The main causes of pain in the left arm are:

1. Infarction

Acute myocardial infarction, also known as heart attack, consists of an interruption in the flow of blood to the heart, causing the death of cardiac cells in this region, which generates chest pain that can radiate to the neck, jaw, armpit, back, left arm or even right arm.

This chest and arm pain may be accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness, malaise, nausea, cold sweat or paleness.

What to do: in the presence of any of these symptoms, you should go to a hospital immediately or call 192 to call SAMU, especially in cases of diabetes history, high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol. In this way, it is possible to start treatment as soon as possible, with medication, catheterization or angioplasty to regulate the flow of blood to the heart and avoid complications.Find out how infarction is treated.

2. Angina

Angina is characterized by a feeling of heaviness, pain or tightness in the chest, which can radiate to the arm, shoulder or neck and is caused by a decrease in blood flow through the arteries that carry oxygen to the heart, also called cardiac ischemia.

The main cause of angina is atherosclerosis, which is the accumulation of fat in the heart arteries, and some factors can contribute to its development such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or a high-fat diet, for example. In addition, angina symptoms can be aggravated by exertion or moments of great emotion.

What to do: Treatment should be done under the guidance of a cardiologist and depends on the type of angina, and the use of anticoagulant and antiplatelet drugs, vasodilators or beta-blockers may be indicated, for example. See the main types of angina and how the treatment is done.

3. Bursitis

Pain in the left arm can be caused by shoulder bursitis, which is an inflammation of the synovial bursa, a small fluid-filled sac that sits inside a joint and serves as a shock absorber between the bones, tendons and muscles, avoiding contact with these structures that could be damaged by constant friction.

Thus, inflammation of this structure can cause symptoms such as pain in the shoulder and arm, difficulty raising the arm above the head, weakness in the muscles in the region and a local tingling sensation that radiates to the arm.

What to do: the treatment of shoulder bursitis should be guided by the orthopedist to reduce the inflammation of the bursa, and the use of analgesic or anti-inflammatory drugs may be indicated, physiotherapy, injection of steroids in the shoulder joint or even surgery. In addition, to complement the medical treatment, an ice pack can be placed on the shoulder, leaving it to act for about 20 minutes, 1 or 2 times a day.Check out the main remedies for bursitis.

4. Tendonitis

Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon, which is the final part of the muscle that connects to the bone, and can arise in the shoulder, elbow or arm, causing symptoms of pain in the region that can radiate to the arm, difficulty in performing arm movements, arm weakness, and a feeling of tingling or cramping in the shoulder.

Generally, tendinitis occurs due to some friction in the tendon, repetitive movements, as in the case of swimming, volleyball, tennis or painting, or by staying for long periods in a bad posture, such as sleeping all night on top of the arm or shoulder, for example.

What to do: the joint should be rested, avoiding repetitive efforts, to reduce tendon inflammation and thus relieve pain and discomfort in the left arm. In addition, an ice pack can be placed on the wrist for 20 minutes daily, twice a day.In some cases, the doctor may recommend physical therapy, especially when inflammation is frequent and does not go away over time, or even the use of anti-inflammatory drugs or surgery. See more details about tendinitis treatment.

5. Fracture

Arm, forearm and collarbone fractures are the most common and can cause very intense pain in the left arm and in the affected region. In addition, other symptoms that may occur are swelling and deformity of the site, inability to move the arm, presence of bruising and numbness and tingling in the arm.

In addition, injuries or blows to the arm can also cause pain in the area for a few days, even if no fracture occurs.

What to do: If a fracture occurs, the person should urgently go to the doctor to be evaluated, with the help of an X-ray. Treatment can be done with the use of limb immobilization, analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs and, later, physiotherapy.

6. Poor circulation

Poor circulation in the left arm, caused by a blockage in the blood vessel or a thrombosis in veins or arteries, for example, can cause pain or a tingling and heaviness sensation in the arm, in addition to swelling.

Furthermore, other symptoms that may accompany pain in the left arm are changes in the color of the hands, which may appear pale or purplish.

What to do: you should consult with the general practitioner or angiologist, who will carry out a detailed evaluation and request exams such as ultrasound with Doppler of the arm. Treatment depends on the cause, and fluid consumption, exercise or, in more severe cases, use of medication to facilitate circulation may be indicated. Learn more about treatment for poor circulation.

7. Cervical disc herniation

Cervical disc herniation is the rupture or displacement of an intervertebral disc, located between the vertebrae of the spine in the neck region, which causes a compression of the nerves in the region, causing neck pain that radiates to the arms, hands or fingers.

In addition, symptoms such as a feeling of weakness or tingling in one of the arms and difficulty moving the neck or lifting the arms may appear.

What to do: Cervical disc herniation treatment should be done by an orthopedist who may indicate physical therapy or use of analgesic and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to help relieve pain and decrease inflammation. In more severe cases, the doctor may recommend surgery. See the main treatment options for herniated cervical discs.

8. Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that occurs due to prolonged exposure to high blood sugar levels, which can cause progressive damage to the nerves in the body, which can affect the arms, hands or feet, leading to the appearance of symptoms such as sharp pain, burning sensation, tingling or numbness.

Diabetic neuropathy is generally more common in people who do not adequately treat their diabetes to control blood sugar levels. Learn how to control blood sugar levels.

What to do: you should follow the treatment indicated by the endocrinologist, which is usually done with antidiabetic drugs, such as insulin, to normalize blood sugar levels. In addition, to relieve pain, the doctor may prescribe anticonvulsant, antidepressant or opioid medications, such as pregabalin, amitriptyline or tramadol, for example. Understand better how diabetic neuropathy is treated.

9. Rheumatoid arthritis

Left arm pain can be caused by rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the immune system produces antibodies that attack he althy cells in the body, causing inflammation in the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis, when it affects the shoulder, elbow or wrist joint, can cause long-lasting left and/or right arm pain, swelling, difficulty holding objects or walking, and even joint deformity.

What to do: Rheumatoid arthritis treatment should be guided by a rheumatologist and includes the use of medication, anti-inflammatory diet and physical therapy, for example, to relieve pain and joint swelling and improve quality of life. See all treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis.

10. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

The thoracic outlet syndrome can also cause pain in the left arm, and occurs due to compression of the nerves and/or blood vessels that are located in the region of the thoracic outlet, between the collarbone and the first rib.

Generally, thoracic outlet syndrome occurs due to injuries or irritations in these structures, caused by trauma, accidents or repetitive efforts, as in the case of athletes or professional activity, leading to the emergence of symptoms such as pain in the arm, shoulder and neck, tingling sensation or difficulty moving the arms.

What to do: The treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome should be done under the guidance of an orthopedist, who may indicate the use of analgesic, anti-inflammatory or anticoagulant drugs, physical therapy or even surgery. Find out how thoracic outlet syndrome is treated.

11. Rotator cuff tear

Pain in the left arm can arise due to a tear in the rotator cuff in the shoulder, which is formed by four muscles, such as infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres minor and subscapularis, which are responsible for moving and providing stability to the shoulder.

Injuries in this region usually occur due to inflammation caused by wear and tear, irritation or an impact due to overuse of the joint, which is more common in athletes or people who work carrying weight with their arms, leading to onset of pain in the arm that gets worse when moving, weakness in the arm, or difficulty with day-to-day activities.

What to do: rotator cuff tear treatment should be indicated by an orthopedist to reduce joint inflammation and help its regeneration, which may include shoulder rest, application of ice, physical therapy or use of anti-inflammatory drugs or injection of corticosteroids into the joint. See other treatments that your doctor may recommend for rotator cuff tears.

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