Arm Pain & Numbness

Arm pain is usually described as aching, discomfort, or stiffness that occurs anywhere from your shoulders down to your fingers in one or both arms. Often patients also complain of numbness (especially in the fingers), tingling, or a burning sensation.

Depending on the cause, arm pain can start suddenly or develop over time.

There are many possible causes for this complaint including:

  • Brachial neuritis
  • Injury (recent or previous)
  • Carpel tunnel
  • Overuse
  • Dislocated elbow
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Herniated disc
  • Arthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Joint injury
  • Compressed nerves
  • Sprain or strain

In many cases, the arm pain is the result of underlying conditions in other areas of the body that need to be resolved.

It’s important to note that arm pain, particularly pain that radiates down into your left arm, can be a sign of a heart attack.


There are a variety of symptoms that can appear, usually in combination, to match the variety of causes of this pain. Some of these include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Dull ache
  • Weakness
  • Limited mobility
  • Sharp pain
  • Tingling
  • Numbness


Because there are so many possible sources for arm pain, a robust exam is needed to properly diagnose the condition(s) that may be causing the arm pain.

To do this, the physicians at Semmes Murphey Clinic talk with patients to obtain their complete medical history, activity level and possible recent or past injuries. Blood tests, X-rays, CT scans or MRIs might also be administered to help ensure an accurate diagnosis.

Since all cases are unique to the individual, treatment and management varies widely as well. Depending on the test results and diagnosis, any variety of treatments could be implemented to address the underlying condition.

For example, if the condition is found to be Carpal Tunnel syndrome, the patient could be prescribed pain medication, a brace, physical therapy or perhaps surgery. If the pain is due to brachial neuralgia, the patient may need weeks or even months of physical therapy, possibly in combination with pain medications.

A variety of treatment options exist, including anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, and topical analgesics to manage pain, any accompanying stiffness and tenderness. Bed rest may be indicated, along with heat application, gentle massage, and potentially light physical therapy.

The Semmes Murphey spine and pain management physicians are nationally recognized leaders in this field. Because of their years and depth of experience they urge patients to seek treatment early in the condition rather than “waiting for it to get better.”

This information was provided by the specialists at Semmes Murphey Clinic. Readers are encouraged to research trustworthy organizations for information. Please talk with your physician for websites and sources that will enhance your knowledge and understanding of this issue and its treatments.

If you experience arm pain, particularly prolonged or recurring pain or pain unrelieved by over-the-counter pain relievers, it’s time to see one of the neurologists at Semmes Murphey.

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