Inflammatory and degenerative conditions are the main causes of localized pain in the left arm. However, heart attacks and anxiety attacks can also reflect discomfort at this level.
Last update: 29 January, 2022
Pains in the left arm are often associated with musculoskeletal injuries and conditions of aging. However, in some cases these discomforts can be a warning sign of a more serious medical condition. Here we tell you about the causes of pain in the left arm.
Pain is a symptom that warns that something is wrong in the body. When we talk about pain in the left arm, we refer to any discomfort that occurs at any point from the shoulder to the wrist, and even the palm of the hand is usually included.
The causes of pain in the left arm can be very varied. It may be a reflex symptom of damage elsewhere in the body or of a local condition in the skin, muscles, nerves, or bones of the limb.
Causes of pain in the left arm
Discomfort in the upper extremities They can be of muscular, articular, vascular, cutaneous and neurological origin.. On rare occasions, this discomfort usually has a psychiatric component, associated with anxiety attacks and chronic stress.
1. Angina pectoris and myocardial infarction
Heart attacks are the result of damage or injury to a region of the heart, due to inadequate oxygen supply due to obstruction of blood flow. Studies affirm that atherosclerosis is the main cause of heart attacks and angina, causing 78% of deaths for this reason.
In the case of angina, there is a partial arterial occlusion and the symptoms are less intense. For its part, in infarction vascular obstruction is complete, so the person experiences a critical state that puts life at risk.
Pain in the left arm is one of the most common symptoms of angina pectoris and heart attacks. This is the result of the integration of the nerves of the heart and those that innervate the arm at the same point of the spinal cord.
Angina pain lasts less than 20 minutes, while heart attack pain can last up to 1 hour. Similarly, the person may have difficulty breathing, nausea, dizziness, tiredness and cold sweat.
Bursitis is a painful condition characterized by inflammation of the bursa. This is a small synovial sac that provides cushioning to the bones and muscles in the joints.
Similarly, the condition is common in the shoulder, elbow, hip, and knee. Therefore, it represents one of the most common causes of joint pain in the left arm. Bursitis is usually the result of repetitive use of a joint or direct blows.
The pain resembles a stitch. It gets worse when touching the joint or moving it. In addition, there may be swelling and redness over the affected area.
Tendons are small fibrous and elastic bands that join muscles to bones. Inflammation of the tendons is called tendinitis and often causes joint pain. This can occur anywhere in the body, however, it is more common on the shoulders and elbows.
The risk of suffering from this condition increases with increasing age. Repetitive movements and overuse of the joints often cause the injury. For this reason, it is one of the common causes of pain in the left arm in tennis players, golfers, swimmers and musicians.
Pain can occur in both upper extremities and described as mild to moderate discomfort that occurs when moving the joint. In addition, people have tenderness and swelling.
4. Rotator Cuff Tear
The rotator cuff is made up of several muscles that surround the shoulder and are responsible for stabilizing the head of the humerus in its socket. Excessive physical exertion, aging, and heavy lifting can weaken the shoulder and cause the tendons to tear.
In most cases, this condition causes severe shoulder pain that limits lifting and rotating the arm. Also, some people may feel a clicking sound when trying to move.
5. Bone fracture
Fractures in the bones of the arm can occur at the level of the humerus, ulna and radius. Similarly, the small bones of the wrist and hand can also be compromised. Open hand falls and sports injuries are the most common causes.
The person will report severe pain in the affected arm that will worsen with movement. Similarly, inflammation of the area and the presence of bruises are common.
6. Disc herniation
The intervertebral discs are small, flat pads that provide cushioning and space between the vertebrae of the spine. Hernias occur when these discs rupture and bulge., compressing the surrounding nerves.
Cervical disc herniations are one of the most common causes of pain in the left arm, which is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack. Studies estimate that this condition accounts for 8% of cases of back and shoulder pain.
Similarly, patients may experience discomfort in the neck, elbow, and forearm, as well as tingling and numbness in the hand. Poor posture and heavy lifting are risk factors.
Arthritis is an inflammatory joint disorder that presents with pain, stiffness, and swelling. The most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In both pathologies there is wear of the articular cartilage and limitation of movement.
This is one of the common causes of left arm pain in older adults. It is usually concentrated in the shoulder and hand joints.
8. Cervical radiculopathy
This is a nervous syndrome result of compression of a spinal nerve or ganglion. In most cases it is associated with spinal trauma, wear and tear injuries, and herniated discs.
Research shows that cervical radiculopathy often causes a characteristic shooting or stabbing neck pain that radiates down the arm. In addition, it can be accompanied by muscle weakness, tingling and numbness of the upper limb.
9. Peripheral arterial disease
Poor circulation and lack of adequate blood flow to the extremities is a common cause of pain. The main risk factors include smoking, aging, high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure.
Pain and heaviness in the legs when walking or climbing stairs is common. However, in advanced cases, people may have discomfort in the hands, wrists, and forearms.
10. Vascular compression
Vascular and nerve compression resulting from thoracic outlet syndrome can cause pain in the neck, left shoulder, and fingers. The most common causes include trauma, car accidents, and repetitive work or sports injuries.
It is common for people to also report numbness and weakness in the upper limbs. In some cases there may be swelling, paleness, and decreased pulse in the hand and forearm.
11. Carpal tunnel syndrome
This is a neurological disorder that occurs due to sustained compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel, located between the wrist and the hand. It is common in women between 30 and 60 years of age.
The most common symptoms are tingling and numbness in the ring, index, middle, and thumb fingers. In addition, people may experience a sensation of electric shock that spreads through the hand, wrist, and forearm.
12. Panic attack and anxiety
Panic attacks, anxiety attacks and chronic stress are psychological conditions capable of generating somatization, that is, physical symptoms with no other apparent cause. Manifestations are highly varied and include pain in the left arm, palpitations, profuse sweating, and respiratory distress.
When to seek medical attention?
The causes of pain in the left arm are very varied and can range from a muscle condition to a heart attack. In this sense, this symptom should not be underestimated and consult a health professional as soon as possible.
Similarly, if the pain is very intense, persists with rest and does not allow daily activities, it is advisable to see a doctor immediately. Some warning signs that indicate the need for emergency care are palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain and loss of consciousness.
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Catherine A. Johnson