Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Pain in the arm can result from a number of factors. Abnormalities or injury of the skin, nerves, bones, joints, blood vessels, and soft tissues of the arm can all result in pain. Arm pain, depending on the location and cause, may be accompanied by numbness, redness, swelling, tenderness, or stiffness of the joints. Injuries or trauma to any part of the arm or shoulder, including bone fractures, joint dislocations, and muscle strains and sprains, are common causes of arm pain. Sometimes diseases that affect other organs in the body, like peripheral vascular disease or arthritis, can be the cause of pain in the arm. Causes of arm pain range from mild annoyances to severe and potentially life-threatening occurrences, such as chest pain from myocardial infarction (heart attack) and angina pectoris that may radiate (spread) to the arm area. The pain of a heart attack can be accompanied by nausea, difficulty breathing, a sense of pressure on the chest, and other symptoms. Treatments for arm pain depend on the underlying cause.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
Causes of Arm Pain
Angina (Symptoms, Causes, Types, Diagnosis, and Treatment)
Angina is chest pain due to inadequate blood supply to the heart. Angina symptoms may include chest tightness, burning,...
Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints. When joints are inflamed they can develop stiffness, warmth, swelling, redness...
Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as: compressed, open, stress, greenstick,...
Bug Bites and Stings
Bug bites and stings have been known to transmit insect-borne illnesses such as West Nile virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever,...
Burns (First Aid)
Burn types are based on their severity: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. First-degree burns are...
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac found in the joints that cusions them. Bursitis is an inflammation of the bursae, most commonly...
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which irritation of the wrist's median nerve causes tingling and numbness of the thumb,...
Cellulitis is an acute spreading bacterial infection below the surface of the skin characterized by redness, warmth,...
Compartment syndrome is a condition in which swelling and an increase in pressure within a limited space presses and compresses...
DeQuervain's tenosynovitis is inflammation of the tendon on the side of the wrist at the base of the thumb. DeQuervain's...
Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2)
Diabetes is a chronic condition characterized by high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. The two types of diabetes are...
The shoulder is the most often dislocated joint in the body due to its mobility. Dislocation occurs when the head of the humerus...
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and tender points. Stress...
Gout (Gouty Arthritis)
Buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint causes gouty arthritis. Symptoms and signs include joint pain, swelling, heat, and...
Heart attack happens when a blood clot completely obstructs a coronary artery supplying blood to the heart muscle. A heart attack...
A herniated disc may be caused by injury or degeneration from age. Symptoms depend on the location of the herniation and whether...
Lymphedema is a condition in which one or more extremities become swollen as the result of an impaired flow of the lymphatic...
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone. Potential causes include injections around the bone, fractures that puncture the skin,...
Peripheral neuropathy is a problem with the functioning of the nerves outside of the spinal cord. Symptoms may include numbness,...
Peripheral Vascular Disease
Peripheral vascular disease (PVD) refers to diseases of the blood vessels (arteries and veins) located outside the heart and...
A pinched nerve causes pain, numbness, or tingling in the affected area due to pressure on a nerve. Caral tunnel and sciatica are...
Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is a disorder of the muscles and joints that causes pain and stiffness in the arms, neck, shoulders,...
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms include painful, stiff, and swollen joints,...
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints, the tissue around the joints,...
Rotator Cuff Disease
Rotator cuff disease is damage to any of the four tendons that stabilize the shoulder joint. Shoulder pain and tenderness are...
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache,...
Snake Bite (Snake Bite)
There are venomous (poisonous) and nonvenomous (nonpoisonous) snakes. A venomous snake bite penetrates the skin and injects,...
Sprains and Strains
An injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be...
Sunburn (Sun Poisoning)
Sunburn is caused by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun. UV rays can also damage the eyes. Repeated overexposure to UV...
Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis)
Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis. Symptoms of tennis elbow include tenderness and dull pain of the outer...
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition where symptoms are produced from compression of nerves or blood vessels because the...
Vasculitis (Symptoms, Treatment, Types)
Vasculitis (arteritis, angiitis) is a general term for a group of uncommon diseases which feature inflammation of the blood...
Whiplash is a common injury to a person's neck following a car accident (in most cases). Symptoms include: headache, neck...
Other Causes of Arm Pain
Examples of Medications for Arm Pain
- acetaminophen (Tylenol, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Ext, Little Fevers Children's Fever/Pain)
- aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid, Bayer, Ecotrin, and others)
- celecoxib, Celebrex
- etodolac, Lodine (Discontinued)
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Arthritis Newsletter