Left arm pain can be due to many different things, stemming from sore muscles or it could be related to the heart. Paying attention to your left arm pain is, therefore, important in order to reduce your risk of health complications.
Left arm pain can be either acute—meaning it can be sudden and stick around for a short period of time—or chronic, lasting longer than three months.
It can affect any area of the arm, including the elbow, fingers, or shoulders.
Here we will highlight the common causes for left arm pain and the treatment to help you better manage it.
Causes of left arm pain
Heart attack: A heart attack occurs when the heart muscles are deprived of oxygen, so circulation gets compromised. This can be the result of a clogged or severely constricted artery. A heart attack can occur at any time, and having certain risk factors—high blood pressure or cholesterol—increases a person’s risk of developing a heart attack. Along with left arm pain, a person may also experience chest pain, sweating, nausea, and vomiting during a heart attack.
Angina: Angina is part of coronary heart disease and is described as chest discomfort. A person may experience burning, heaviness, pressure, aching, squeezing, fullness, or pain as a result of a reduction in blood flow. The pain may originate in the chest, but radiate to the left arm.
Stress or panic attack: A panic attack can present itself like a heart attack, accompanied by sweating, heart palpitations, and, of course, left arm pain. If your doctor has examined your heart and the results are normal, then an anxiety disorder may be the root cause.
Physical injury and overuse: Less serious causes of left arm pain involve physical injury or overuse. In this case, your heart is fine, but your left arm is damaged in some way. Common injuries include a mastectomy, left brachial plexus injury, left arm, wrist, or hand fracture, sports-related strains or sprains, rotator cuff injury, and tendinitis.
Bad circulation: For some, bad circulation may occur even if the heart is fine. Some causes of poor circulation include colder temperatures, physical trauma, vitamin deficiency, certain diseases, certain medications, improper sleeping position, and the formation of a blood clot.
Poor sleeping position: Continuously sleeping on your left side or in an improper sleeping position can result in pinched nerves, which causes left arm pain.
Medication side effect: Some medications may cause left arm pain as a side effect. You may want to speak to your doctor if you suspect your left arm pain is associated with your medications.
Treatment options for left arm pain
Proper treatment for left arm pain involves understanding the underlying. For example, if your left arm pain is a result of a heart-related problem, you need to seek medical help right away to ensure that appropriate treatments can be administered.
If your left arm pain stems from an injury or overuse, then your doctor may recommend that you rest the arm or wear a sling or brace to better help support it.
If an improper sleeping position is causing your left arm pain, you will want to ensure you change up the way you are sleeping at night.
Left arm pain associated with poor circulation can be resolved by increasing physical activity levels.
When to see a doctor for pain in the left arm
You should see your doctor right away if your left arm pain is accompanied by chest pain, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. This is signaling a heart-related problem, so immediate action must take place to prevent complications.
If swelling begins in the left arm and the pain lasts for several days, or if bleeding occurs, these are also indicators that you need to see a doctor for your left arm pain.
If you are having difficulties moving your arm, you should also see a doctor.
Things to keep in mind if you have left arm pain
While left arm pain may not always be an indicator of an oncoming heart attack, it is important to seek the advice of your physician if you are experiencing discomfort in your left arm and have been previously diagnosed with heart disease.
If the pain in your left arm occurs after a hard fall, or if you’ve bumped into something, it may be a broken or fractured bone. If left untreated, this can cause more issues in the future. If there is a possibility that you’ve broken something in your arm, it is best to get it looked at by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Similarly, if you have any difficulty being able to fully rotate your shoulder, elbow, or wrist, this may be due to a rotator cuff tear, bursitis, or tendinitis, and if left without treatment, these issues can progress and worsen over time. Be sure to get your arm looked at by a trained professional if you experience any of these symptoms as soon as you can to prevent your condition from worsening
If your left arm pain is caused by a muscle sprain or strain, it can be treated at home by resting the arm, applying ice on and off for short periods of time, and keeping it elevated. Over-the-counter painkillers may also help to ease any discomfort until the sprain has fully healed.