Arm pain and weakness do not always have to originate in the arm. Often the pain originates in the wrist. For instance, both carpal tunnel syndrome and a broken wrist can cause a feeling of general weakness and send pain radiating up the arm. In actuality, there are numerous potential causes of pain and weakness in the arm. Some of the most likely culprits include overuse, acute injuries, and arthritis.
Often, arm pain and weakness is a result of a minor injury such as overuse of the arm through manual labor. Repetitive motions localized to the arm and wrists, for example, cause tennis elbow. Exercise also has the ability to cause an arm injury when a move is done incorrectly or if the arm is under too much strain. For example, an individual attempting to lift a heavy weight when out of condition could strain a muscle. Over-lifting by wearing hefty backpacks or purses or attempting to move heavy furniture could also be the culprit.
Acute arm injuries, including shoulder separations, shoulder dislocations, and a broken arm can be caused by sharp blows or hard falls. These types of injuries can occur in all age groups, but tend to show up more frequently in children and those who participate in contact sports. Elderly individuals may also be more susceptible due to decreased bone mass and density. Some older adults also have eye weakness that can make it more difficult to see objects in their path or impede their balance, increasing the chances of an arm injury occurring.
Arthritis is another common factor in arm weakness and pain. The condition can be caused by inflammation in the joints or wear and tear due to cartilage degeneration. In some cases, arthritis in the arm can develop after an injury. Usually, joint pain and weakness will present with swelling and limited shoulder mobility. Other common conditions such as tendonitis and bursitis can also be caused by arthritis.
When these symptoms are the result of a minor injury, they can often be treated through home care. Over-the-counter medications can ease pain, while ice can provide relief from soreness; compression and elevation are also useful to reduce swelling. Using correct posture so the shoulders do not slump, taking frequent breaks when doing repetitive activities, and wearing a seat belt might also be useful for preventing re-injury.
In certain situations, arm pain and weakness requires prompt medical attention. For instance, if right arm pain and weakness occurs along with an uncomfortable pressure or squeezing pain in the chest region, a heart attack could be occurring and emergency medical assistance is likely needed. When arm pain is accompanied by severe pain, swelling, a visibly protruding bone, or immobility in the arm, a prompt visit to the doctor’s office is also recommended. Prompt treatment is also necessary if pain and weakness occur after a car accident, fall, or other physical trauma and are accompanied by a popping or cracking sound in the arm.