What Causes Pain in the Left Arm and What to Do?

women-having-pain-in-left-arm
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key takeaways

  • Left arm pain can indicate heart issues like angina or cardiac arrest. Sudden pain might signify heart problems. Muscle sprains or strains from activities can lead to left arm pain as well. 
  • Bursitis causes arm pain due to joint swelling; diagnosis includes imaging.
  • Treatment involves pain relief and cold compresses.
  • Pinched nerves, like cervical radiculopathy, cause left arm pain, often with numbness.
  • Thoracic outlet syndrome involves nerve compression and needs proper diagnosis.
  • Hemiplegia-induced brain damage leads to arm pain, requiring medical assessment.
  • OTC drugs like Ibuprofen provide temporary relief; treatments vary by cause.
  • Consult healthcare providers for proper consultation and treatment regimen.

Overview

Left arm pain may signal heart issues like angina or cardiac arrest, especially sudden pain, crucial for diabetics on medications. Activities causing muscle strain can also lead to arm pain, with online consultations aiding effective treatment. Bursitis, joint swelling, contributes to arm pain, diagnosed with imaging and managed through pain relief and cold compresses. Pinched nerves, like cervical radiculopathy, and thoracic outlet syndrome, nerve compression, are potential causes. Hemiplegia-induced arm pain requires prompt medical assessment. Tendinitis-triggered inflammation can result in severe pain, managed with heat and OTC meds tailored to an accurate diagnosis. Recognizing these sources and seeking timely medical attention ensures proper management of left arm pain.

Causes of pain in the left arm

Are you feeling pain, stiffness, numbness, or muscle pain in your left arm?

Let’s look into the causes of this pain and stiffness. 

Pain in your limbs left or right arm, can or can not be just the pain of the arm but can be originated and indicate medical conditions other than limbs.

Here is the list of 8 causes of pain in your left arm and what measures you should take to avoid and treat them.

Schedule an online consultation now for left arm pain

Heart problems, including sudden cardiac arrest or angina pectoris (pain you feel during or before a heart attack), can be caused right after you feel a sudden pain in your left arm originating from your chest to the back of your spine. This clearly means that pain in your left arm can also indicate the underlying problem of your heart.

All the problems related to the heart especially originate from the lack of blood supply to the heart due to blockage of the vessels.

If you are feeling sudden pain in your left arm that comes and goes, it’s better to get a quick consultation with your doctors online 24-7 than to die of worry.

Important Note: If you are a diabetic patient taking medications, including diuretics like chlorthalidone or indapamide) and feel a consistent pricking pain even less intense in your left arm; it’s crucial to get a quick consultation rather than wait for it to get intense because medication for diabetes often masks the pain you feel before a heart attack. You might suffer in quiet, and it gets intensified without even you feeling the pain.

Injury causing left arm pain: Muscle sprain or muscle strain

Sprain and strain are both related terms for injury; the only difference is a sprain is an injury to the ligaments, while a strain is an injury to the muscles and tendons. Both can occur due to severe causes like: 

  • Lifting heavy weights. 
  • Extraneous exercise.
  • Abnormal physical activity.
  • Sudden jolts or jerks. 
  • Calcium deficiency
  • Weak or porous bones.

These causes will present themselves as pain in your arm, specifically in the left one, if it’s used for the activity.

You might get confused about whether you got a muscle sprain or strain. Get that ambiguity out of your mind by getting a quick and easy online consultation and a prescription from the ease of your home from our 24/7 available services.

Bursitis can cause pain in the left arm

Bursitis is a medical condition characterized by the formation of swelling in the Bursa (singular), which is a fluid-filled sac around the joints of the body. It is also termed Painful swelling, where the area around the joint “Bursa” gets bulged and inflamed, giving an overall lethargic and inflamed feeling when moving. 

  • Some of the common causes of Busititis are 
  • Repetitive and frequent movements
  • Putting pressure on specific areas like joints for longer periods.
  • Gardening, carpeting, and painting while staying in the same position.
  • Playing any musical instrument without changing position. 

Diagnosis and treatment options

The best treatment for bursitis is to diagnose it first by following the diagnostic procedures that will be prescribed by your healthcare provider, including X-ray, imaging tests, and blood tests, to confirm that it is bursitis and not any other medical condition.

Over-the-counter medications like pain relievers: NSAIDs ( Ibuprofen- ADVIL, acetaminophen-Tylenol) to quickly relieve the pain. 

Ice compression or cold compress also works as one of the best remedies to be followed for inflammation and bursitis.

Get a prescription online for your cardiovascular problems

Herniated Disc causing pain in the left arm

Slipped or ruptured joining points where the disc lies, can cause a herniated disc, leading to pain in your left arm and the shoulder. Discs generally are cautions that sit between the vertebras and joints, allowing them to move quickly and smoothly. Discs degenerate with age. The chances of getting a disc slip over a slightly more intense movement than usual will cause a herniated disc and can cause left or right arm pain. 

Important to consider

It’s essential to get yourself checked by the healthcare provider if you have pain in your left arm that emerges from the spine right after lifting something. Your healthcare provider will more likely ask you to get the imaging tests along with some prescription medications to cater to the spinal and left arm pain.

Treatment options for left arm pain

Treatment options will vary as per the diagnosis of your healthcare provider. 

You might get a prescription for Physical therapy sessions until you get better. 

You can take over-the-counter medications like Tylenol and Advil for temporary pain relief.

A supplemental diet will help you to avoid this medical condition altogether.

Pinched nerve can cause left arm pain

Nerves when pinched due to external pressure from the bone’s muscle and mass on the nerves. It can be motor or sensory nerves that return pain signals on pinching.

It is one of the most common causes of pain in the left arm. 

Cervical Radiculopathy (pinched nerve in the neck/cervical region) can also cause pain or cramps in the left arm in both males and females as you age. Pain in the left arm will accompany numbness, tingling, and weakness. 

Diagnosis and Treatment options: It can only be diagnosed by the healthcare provider after careful observation. Over-the-counter pain relief medications don’t work effectively for pinched nerve pain, and you will need the prescription medication accordingly.

Get professional advice for left arm pain from Your Doctors Online app

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome causes left arm pain

Thoracic outlet syndrome is the compression or irritation of the nerves, blood vessels, or both, which can also cause left arm pain if the nerves leading to the arm or from the arm are affected in any way. 

Causes of TOS can vary from genetic bone abnormalities, positioning, muscle imbalances, and repetitive strain injuries. 

It needs a proper diagnosis from the healthcare provider for the prescribed treatment regimen.

Hemiplegia causing left arm pain

It is a condition led by the brain known as one-sided paralysis. It is caused by the various changes in the brain affecting the left or right side of the body. It can be the left whole side or the right whole side.  

It mainly occurs due to stroke (brain cell damage ) and brain nerve damage.

Diagnostic and treatment options

Your healthcare provider will perform diagnosis, including CT, MRI, and neurological evaluation tests for the proper treatment regimen prescription.

Tendinitis causes left arm pain

Tendinitis is a condition composed of inflammation and irritation of a tendon. It can affect your left arm, causing extreme pain and discomfort until get treated. 

The pain may be sharp or dull and is often exacerbated by movement of the affected joint.

What is the best treatment for arm pain?

  • Over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen and Tylenol can be taken for pain relief.
  • Heat compression can help reduce pain via heating pads.
  • Ice pads can reduce the pain in the area. 
  • Physical therapy, as prescribed, should be continued, which will definitely treat the pain. 
  • Other treatment options, like muscle relaxants, can only be prescribed after the proper imaging and evaluation diagnosis.

What is the best medicine for left arm pain?

Over-the-counter medication like Ibuprofen (Advil ), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen, as per the normal adult doses, will be beneficial for temporarily relieving pain. 

Medications like muscle relaxants will only be prescribed after the proper diagnosis and evaluation.

A note from “Your doctors online”  – Consult provider online

You can get an over-the-counter pain reliever like NSAIDS for the left arm pain, but it should be noted that the persistent and pinching pain can be the indication of the bigger underlying cause. It’s always good to get a medical consultation from a healthcare provider for better diagnosis and treatment. 

FAQs about pain in the left arm

What does left arm pain related to the heart feel like?

Usually, it’s tricky to identify whether the pain is related to a heart problem or not. It feels like originating and moving from the shoulder to the left arm. It will feel like the pain is moving back and forth from the shoulder to the left arm and chin. It’s important to get urgent medical care to cater to the presenting condition.

Why do I have a weird sensation in my left arm?

Weird sensations along with the pain can be the indication of muscle strain, sprain, or pinched nerve in the arm. It will get worse with time, even the slight movement. It’s good to get a medical consultation for proper diagnosis and treatment.

What kind of pain in the left arm is concerning?

If the pain is consistent and moves back and forth from your neck, cervical spine, shoulder, and left arm, It definitely is concerning and is an indication of any underlying condition. It’s good to get the medical consultation and treatment.

What part of your arm hurts with heart pain?

All parts of the arms, originating from the cervical spine, moving back and forth from the shoulder to the left arm, fingers, and going backward to the chin. Get medical consultation as soon as possible for timely diagnosis and treatment.

How long does it take for upper arm pain to heal?

Healing depends on the cause of the pain. If it’s related to a heart problem, it will take time until it’s medically treated. If it’s a pinched nerve, it will take 2 to 3 weekly physiotherapy sessions to get better, similarly, with every underlying cause, treatment span changes.

How do I know if my arm pain is nerve-related?

You will feel numbness and a tingling effect in your left arm, where the nerve is pinched, followed by a sudden jolt of pain in the specific area.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

  • Cohen, Henry, and H. Wallace Jones. “The reference of cardiac pain to a phantom left arm.” British Heart Journal 5.1 (1943): 67.
  • Swischuk, Leonard E. “Pain and decreased movement of left arm.” Pediatric emergency care 7.3 (1991): 169-170.
  • Brickner, Walter M. “PAIN IN THE ARM: SUBDELTOID (SUBACROMIAL) BURSITIS: A FURTHER STUDY OF ITS CLINICAL TYPES, PATHOLOGY AND TREATMENT.” Journal of the American Medical Association 69.15 (1917): 1237-1243.

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