10 Possible Causes of Arm Pain

There are many sources of arm pain, which can affect the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones of the arm, shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, and fingers.

If you’re experiencing a strange pain, tenderness, or numbness in your arm, and you don’t know why, consider the following 10 common causes of arm pain…

1. Broken Arm

A common question posed to a person suffering arm pain might be, “Is it broken?” A break typically occurs in one of three bones—the ulna, radius, or humerus. If you suspect your arm is broken, setting and treating (i.e., which could consist of a sling, pins, screws, or surgery) the broken bone quickly is vital for proper healing and future use.

2. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

This progressive condition causes pain in the arm and hands due to pinched nerves in the wrist (the carpal tunnel protects the main nerves and tendons in each hand). Carpal tunnel can be caused by repetitive stress (i.e., typing at a computer), compression, or by the anatomy of the bones and ligaments in your wrist, resulting in arm tingling, numbness, pain, and muscle weakness.

3. Angina

Angina, or a condition that cuts off blood flow to the heart, causes sudden and severe pain and pressure in the chest as well as the left arm. This pain in the arm is what often differentiates an angina attack from indigestion.

4. Rotator Cuff Injury

A rotator cuff injury causes pain in the muscles and tendons in the shoulder that connect the bone in the upper arm to the shoulder blade, securing it in the shoulder socket. The rotator cuff muscles or tendons can be damaged due to a fall, improper lift, or from repetitive stress.

5. Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow occurs when the tendons in the elbow are stressed, typically due to repetitive stress of the wrist and arm. The result is extreme pain, tingling, and compression in the forearm, wrist, and the outer side of the elbow, and typically requires surgery and rehabilitation to cure.

6. Heart Attack

A heart attack, or a myocardial infarction, results when a blood clot interrupts blood flow to the heart. The sudden attack is typically characterized by shooting pains up the left arm, an early warning sign that should prompt a 9-1-1 call immediately and possibly save a life.

7. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease, often causes inflammation in the elbow joint. This compresses the nerves of the arm, leading to pain, numbness, and tingling in the shoulder, forearm, wrist, and fingers.

8. Herniated Disk

A herniated disk inflicts the rubbery spinal disks, which act as cushions between the individual bones in the spine. However, if a disk slips or ruptures, the surrounding vertebrae and nerves will be no longer protected, and pain, numbness, or inflammation will result in the nearby arm.

9. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is a repetitive stress injury that commonly affects the shoulder, wrist, or elbow due to a sports injury (i.e. golf or baseball). It occurs with the inflammation of a tendon, which connect muscle to bone and protect the attaching joint.

10. Sprain

A sprain occurs when a ligament stretches past its capacity and tearing occurs. A sprain is different from a strain, the stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon, though both sprains and strains are common sources of arm, shoulder, and wrist pain.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a certified yoga instructor and personal trainer. She believes that being healthy is a lifestyle choice, not a punishment or temporary fix to attain a desired fitness or body image goal. Anna helps her clients take responsibility for their own health and wellness through her classes and articles on ActiveBeat.