Arm soreness is an unpleasant condition that can significantly impact a person’s daily life and functionality. It could range from mild discomfort to excruciating anguish. While relaxation, home remedies, and over-the-counter pain medications can help with some cases of arm soreness, there are occasions when medical attention from a specialist is essential. This article will go over the many situations in which it is recommended to see a specialist for arm pain.
Persistent or Intense Pain
If arm soreness persists or worsens despite rest and conservative treatment choices, it is vital to seek medical help. Persistent or severe arm pain may indicate an underlying condition requiring professional evaluation and treatment.
Persistent arm discomfort, such as chronic arm pain or chronic pain, might be caused by overuse injuries, repetitive strain, nerve compression, inflammation, or musculoskeletal disorders. While minor aches and pains may subside with rest and self-care, chronic or worsening pain should not be neglected. It is important to consult an arm pain specialist to determine the underlying cause and devise an appropriate treatment plan for your specific situation.
Some of the underlying conditions that can contribute to long-term arm pain include:
- Tendonitis: Inflammation of the tendons can result in persistent arm pain and limited mobility.
- Nerve Compression: Pinched or compressed nerves in the arm can lead to radiating pain, tingling, or numbness.
- Arthritis: Conditions like osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can cause joint inflammation and chronic arm pain.
- Rotator Cuff Injuries: Injuries to the rotator cuff, such as tears or strains, can result in ongoing shoulder pain and difficulty with arm movement.
- Fractures and Dislocations: Broken bones or dislocated joints in the arm can cause severe pain, swelling, and limited functionality.
If you experience sudden injury, left arm pain, or symptoms like chest pain, particularly in conjunction with arm discomfort, it is important to seek immediate medical attention as it could potentially indicate a more serious condition, such as a heart attack. However, it is important to note that not all arm pain is related to a heart attack.
Traumatic injuries to the arm can impact several structures, including bones, joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerves. If you are experiencing arm pain resulting from a traumatic injury, it is important to seek immediate medical care to ensure a precise diagnosis and receive appropriate therapy. This will promote healthy healing and help restore arm function effectively.
Some common traumatic injuries to the arm include:
- Fractures: Broken bones in the arm can cause extreme pain, swelling, and limited mobility. It is crucial to seek medical care promptly to assess the extent of the fracture and initiate the appropriate treatment, such as immobilization or surgery.
- Dislocations: Dislocated joints, such as in the elbow or shoulder joints, can cause severe pain and restricted movement. Seeking medical attention, including scheduling an appointment with an orthopedic doctor, is vital for proper reduction of the dislocation and ensuring appropriate rehabilitation.
- Ligament Tears: Injuries to the ligaments in the arm, such as in the wrist or elbow joints, can lead to instability, reduced strength, and persistent pain. Medical evaluation and treatment, which may include physical therapy or surgical intervention, can help restore stability and function.
- Muscle Strains: Strained or pulled muscles in the arm can result in pain, swelling, and weakness. Rest, ice packs, and gentle stretching exercises may be recommended to promote healing and reduce swelling.
- Nerve Damage: Trauma to the arm can also cause nerve damage, resulting in symptoms like numbness, tingling, or reduced sensation. Timely medical intervention can help assess the extent of the nerve damage and implement appropriate treatment to restore function and reduce discomfort.
If you experience a traumatic arm injury accompanied by extreme pain, reduced blood flow, or other concerning symptoms, it is essential to seek emergency treatment, such as visiting the emergency room, as it may indicate a serious condition that requires immediate attention. Additionally, individuals with pre-existing heart disease should be cautious as severe pain in the left shoulder or arm could potentially be related to cardiac issues.
Loss of Arm Functionality
Seek medical attention immediately if arm discomfort is accompanied by significant loss of functionality, such as difficulty moving the arm, weakness, or inability to perform everyday tasks. These symptoms could result from nerve impingement, muscle or tendon damage, or another issue requiring specialized therapy to restore arm function.
When arm pain interferes with daily chores or causes an apparent reduction in arm strength, consulting an expert is necessary. A loss of arm capability can result from various underlying issues, and prompt medical treatment is essential for diagnosing the reason and commencing appropriate therapy.
- Nerve Impingement: Nerve impingement occurs when surrounding tissues, such as muscles, tendons, or bones, apply excessive pressure on a nerve. Herniated discs, bone spurs, and inflammatory tissues can all contribute to this strain. Seeking the expertise of orthopedic specialists or a physical therapist can help determine the precise location of the impingement and guide treatment options, which may include physical therapy, medication, or, in extreme cases, surgical intervention.
- Muscle or Tendon Damage: Muscle strains, tendinitis, and tears can occur due to overuse, repetitive activities, or accidental injuries. Arm pain and difficulty moving or weakness may indicate significant muscle or tendon damage. A specialist can conduct a thorough evaluation, including imaging tests, to identify the degree of the injury and recommend the best course of action. Rest, physical therapy, medication, and, in extreme cases, surgical correction are all options that can be explored.
- Joint Conditions: Arm pain and limited arm motion can be caused by joint problems such as shoulder impingement syndrome or frozen shoulder. Joint inflammation, structural defects, or degenerative diseases are common causes of these conditions. If your arm pain is accompanied by a visible restriction in joint movement or difficulty elevating your arm, seeking expert advice from orthopedic specialists is crucial. They can evaluate the joint, potentially request imaging studies, and propose appropriate therapy. To reduce pain and restore arm functionality, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, or, in severe cases, surgical treatments may be employed.
- Neurological issues: In some cases, neurological problems can cause arm pain and loss of functionality. Conditions like brachial plexopathy, which affects the network of nerves that control arm and shoulder function, and peripheral neuropathy, which involves nerve injury, can produce severe arm pain and paralysis. Trauma, nerve compression, infections, or underlying medical conditions can contribute to these disorders. Treatment options may include medication, physical therapy, nerve blocks, and other specialized procedures, depending on the specific diagnosis.
- Systemic Conditions: Some medical conditions can cause joint inflammation, muscle weakness, and fatigue, resulting in significant arm pain and limited movement. Seeking expert advice is crucial in effectively detecting and managing these systemic disorders. The specialist can conduct an evaluation, perform appropriate laboratory tests, and collaborate with other healthcare providers to develop a specific treatment plan. This may involve a combination of medication, physical therapy, alternative therapies, and lifestyle modifications.
Joint Swelling or Deformity
An underlying joint condition is suspected when arm pain is accompanied by joint swelling or deformity. In contrast, the joint deformity may suggest structural problems within the joint due to persistent inflammation or damage. In such cases, it is strongly encouraged to seek the counsel of a specialist who can properly examine the joint, order necessary tests, and recommend appropriate treatment options to control the underlying problem and alleviate arm discomfort.
Bursitis is another condition that can cause joint swelling and arm pain. Bursae are little fluid-filled sacs that serve as cushions between bones, tendons, and muscles in the vicinity of joints. Bursitis develops when these sacs become inflamed, which usually happens due to repetitive motions or excessive pressure on the joint. A professional consultation is essential to obtain an accurate diagnosis and to initiate treatment, which may include rest, pain medications, physical therapy, or, in extreme situations, aspiration of bursa fluid or corticosteroid injections.
A professional can thoroughly examine the root cause of joint swelling or deformity accompanied by arm pain. This equipment can provide the following:
- Detailed information about joint structures.
- Assisting in the detection of any signs of inflammation.
- Structural anomalies.
Numbness or Tingling Sensations
Arm pain accompanied by numbness or tingling is cause for concern and should be addressed by a doctor. Seeking professional treatment for these conditions is crucial for symptom relief and avoiding additional complications.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition characterized by compression of the median nerve as it passes through the carpal tunnel, a small passageway in the wrist. Its symptoms may be worse at night or during repetitive hand motion activities.
It is vital to see a doctor if these symptoms persist and interfere with regular activities. Among the available therapeutic options are:
- Splinting or bracing
- Physical therapy
- Surgical intervention
Pinched Nerve in the Neck:
A pinched nerve in the cervical spine can cause pain, numbness, or tingling sensations to migrate down the arm from the neck. Herniated discs, bone spurs, and spinal stenosis commonly cause a pinched nerve in the neck. These disorders can cause damage to the nerves that connect the spinal cord to the arms.
The Specialist may suggest:
- Diagnostic tests
- Physical therapy
- Epidural steroid injections
- Surgical intervention
Symptoms Radiating to Other Body Parts
When arm pain spreads to other body parts, such as the neck, shoulder, or back, it could signify a more complex musculoskeletal problem. Referred pain occurs when the source of discomfort in one place of the body is detected in another. The underlying cause of radiating arm discomfort must be addressed for proper treatment. A specialist can do a thorough assessment, recommend appropriate diagnostic tests, and provide specific therapeutic options to address the underlying cause of the symptoms.
- Herniated Discs: When a herniated disc in the cervical or thoracic spine is accompanied by neck or back pain, it can induce radiating arm pain. A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner core of a spinal disc protrudes through the tough outer layer and presses on nearby nerves. This compression may result in pain radiating down the arm from the neck or upper back. A specialist can use diagnostic imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan to establish the presence of a herniated disc and recommend appropriate treatment options like physical therapy, pain management measures, or surgical intervention in severe cases.
- Cervical Radiculopathy: Cervical radiculopathy is the compression or irritation of nerve roots in the cervical spine (neck area). It frequently causes radiating arm pain and symptoms such as neck pain, tingling, and muscle weakness. A herniated disc most commonly causes cervical radiculopathy. However, other conditions, such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, can also contribute to its development. A specialist can do a comprehensive evaluation, including imaging scans and nerve conduction testing, to successfully identify cervical radiculopathy.
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: A thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders characterized by nerve or blood vessel compression between the collarbone and the first rib (thoracic outlet). When the nerves in this area are compressed, it might cause radiating arm pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness. Thoracic outlet syndrome can be caused by anatomical abnormalities such as a cervical rib or an incorrect shoulder position, repetitive stress injuries, or trauma. A specialist can evaluate the patient’s symptoms, perform diagnostic tests such as nerve conduction studies or imaging scans, and develop a treatment plan tailored to the patient’s individual needs.