Not all pain goes away with time and rest. If not attended to immediately, some injuries might lead to severe consequences and even permanent damage. That being said, it is just as easy to spot and diagnose pain that you experience and visit a doctor to relieve your pain and receive peace of mind. This article talks about the types of pain you can experience without differentiating one from the other unless you know how to. Read on to find out how to list your symptoms and diagnose arm pain you may be experiencing and how to treat each.
1. What is arm pain?
Arm pain is experiencing discomfort and/or pain in any part of your arm or throughout the arm. It may be wrist, elbow, or shoulder, all concerning your arm, that may trouble you occasionally or constantly. Unlike soreness, pain is sharper and more difficult to ignore when in severe stages. However, you can distinguish between different types of pain:
- Acute pain: you may feel a sudden and severe pain in your arm caused by an external wound or otherwise unexplained in nature.
- Chronic pain: when your pain in the arm does not subside or reduce for days on end and progresses into weeks, you might be experiencing chronic pain. An ice pack or medication does not remedy it, but you have to get to the root cause and thus treat it first.
- Neuropathic pain: If your arm’s nerves feel pinched and you experience pain synonymous with stabbing or burning, you might be experiencing neuropathic pain in your arm.
- Nociceptive pain is the physical pain caused due to damage or injury to the body tissues. It emits sharp pain or aching and throbbing in the affected area.
- Inflammatory is the increased sensitivity in the affected area due to tissue damage. Still, it is minor and caused by the body’s response to the tissue injury when it sends out cells to fight the bacteria in the affected area.
- Functional: often termed non-specific pain, it is usually detected when you have pain during the repetitive movement of the arm in one particular direction.
2. What are the symptoms of arm pain:
It is good to know what to look for and note when you are experiencing any of the above arm pain. Some of the symptoms of arm pain include:
- Redness or bruising
- Swelling or change in the shape of your arm
- Tenderness or sensitivity
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Limited range of motion
- A dull ache
- Sudden sharp shoots of pain
- Radiating shooting pain
- It does not ease even when resting
3. What are the causes of arm pain:
To treat the pain, it is crucial to isolate the cause and affected area of the pain. There are several causes of pain which are categorized into three main types:
- Bursitis: it is the most common cause of shoulder and arm pain. When the fluid builds up in the cushion space between the bones and tissues of the shoulder joint or arm joint.
- Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of the tendon attached to the muscle and bone of the forearm. Even though the tendons are known to be tough, overuse will take its toll on them.
- Rotator cuff tears: it is the partial or complete tear in the rotator cuff which makes it challenging to raise your arm.
- Tennis elbow: it is again the damage to the tendons attached to the forearm present in the elbow. It is the result of overuse and under-rest arm muscles.
- Fractures: fracture or broken arm implies injury to one of the three bones in your arm, the ulna, radius, and humerus.
- Dislocation: when your upper arm bone pops out of the socket at your shoulder blade, it is said to be dislocated.
- Muscle contusions: one of the most common sports injuries, Muscle contusions cause swelling and pain due to bruised muscles that causes injury to your muscle fibers and connective tissues.
You can also experience radiating pain that implies that although the source is different, you might be experiencing pain in your arm due to some other cause.
- Heart problems: when you have heart problems, you have to pay special attention to the type of arm pain you are experiencing as it might be related to your heart.
- Pinched nerve: you might experience pain in your arm due to a pinched nerve in the cervical spine of your neck.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome: compression of blood vessels in the shoulder may cause radiating pain in the downward direction in your arm.
4. How is arm pain diagnosed:
The doctor will try to gather the relevant symptoms and make you talk about your experience with the pain. They may conduct a physical examination where they ask you to lift your arms, move your shoulder, wrists, etc., to test the movement and mobility of the arm. A clinical examination will suffice if the arm pain is easy to diagnose and medicate. But if the pain is severe or harder to spot with varied symptoms, the doctor might run tests and further examination to diagnose the cause and treatment. Your examiner might also run the possibility of having a different source of the problem that is, in turn, causing arm pain. To arrive at a definitive diagnosis, they might have to run tests such as X-ray, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), ultrasound, or even EKG to guide the treatment.
5. What are the treatment options for arm pain:
Treatment depends on the patient’s diagnosis and condition. If it’s an emergency, you will be admitted to the hospital immediately. But in other cases, pain medication and rest will put you back up on your feet, ready to swing your arms.
- Ice: it is the common answer to swelling and pain to put an ice pack on the injured part.
- Heat Pad: you can also heat the pain away with a heating pad to cure swelling and pain in the muscles.
- Rest: what can’t be cured with ice or heat is sure to take time and rest to heal.
- Drugs and medications: the doctor may prescribe certain pain medications to ease your suffering in case of chronic or temporary arm pain
- Physiotherapy: it is to improve mobility and movement so that the movement of your arm muscles is free and easy
- Fracture/dislocated arm: in this case, your arm will be immobilized and restricted till it heals. You might have to resort to physiotherapy afterward.
- Surgery: in case of extreme conditions, like Carpal tunnel syndrome, surgery might be your best shot at getting rid of the pain in your arm. It is only the last resort and not the first suggestion.
6. How can you prevent arm pain from occurring in the first place:
While treatment is the next best option, it is always better to prevent an injury than to diagnose it. You might have to watch your movements to prevent any injury. Reduce the force you use on your arm and hands, relax your grip and make sure you are not exerting your shoulder. Take breaks when you are continuously using or working your arm. When playing or exercesing, watch your form: the correct form may cause you to exert yourself but prevent damage in the long term. It is also good to stretch and warm up before and after strenuous activity involving your arms in action. Use gloves and elbow and shoulder pads as and when necessary.
7. How to take care of your arm in the future:
After treatment, the doctor may list what you can and cannot do. You have to take care of your arm once you experience subsided or no pain. Make sure you do not exert your arm that has experienced pain or injury in the past. However, you must exercise and stretch your arm muscles when the doctor says so. Your physiotherapist might also give you a set of exercises to perform daily.
8. Common medication:
over the counter drugs and medications are the common solution to pain. Ibuprofen might temporarily help you, but you might have to visit the doctor to take care of your arm pain on permanent terms. You may also ask the medical store for acetaminophen and non steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, till you visit the doctor and get your arm sorted. If it is a fracture or a dislocation injury, do not move the arm or try to fix it; get to the emergency room.
While arm pain is not dangerous, it is not something you want to bear and suppress using medication and temporary pain killers. Instead, it is good to get it checked and treated by a medical professional to avoid serious complications.