There are thirty bones, over forty muscles and fourteen major nerves making your arm more diligent, dexterous and adaptable than any tool mankind can emulate. So why is it that when it starts to hurt, we so often ignore the pain and hope that it will go away? Are we scared or is it that we just don’t have the time to do anything about it? But arm pain is a warning signal and should not be ignored. More often than not arm pain is caused by injury to the area of pain but it can also be an indication of more serious underlying problems.
Constant overuse or micro-trauma can go unnoticed on a daily basis. If you go to the gym, play racket sports, use a computer, play musical instruments or even use the text on a mobile phone enough, then overuse injuries are a likely cause of the pain. Positions that strain muscles repetitively are likely to result in an insidious onset of wrist or forearm pain such as carpal tunnel syndrome or lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow).
Arthritis is the body’s way of trying to stabilise unstable joints. Joints can become unstable for many reasons from trauma to overuse. If joints are allowed to remain unstable they start to fuse stopping you from carrying on with everyday activities and the wrist and hands are often the first place arthritis attacks.
When neck pain is caused by muscle strain you may have aches and stiffness that spread to the upper arm and forearm. Shooting pain that spreads down the arm into the hand and fingers can be a symptom of a pinched nerve in the neck. The most common cause of a pinched nerve in the neck is arthritis. Bony growths (osteophytes) press on the nerve that branch from the spinal canal. A pinched nerve in the neck can also be caused by injury, a herniated disc, or a tumour or infection of the spine. When a nerve has been pinched in the neck, numbness and weakness of the hands or arms as well as pain, may occur.
Heart problems can often cause referred pain in the left arm due to the shared neural pathways in the spinal cord. Information about the heart can be confused in the spinal column leading to apparent pain in the arm. Arm pain accompanied by chest pain or shortness of breath may signal a heart attack. Treat this as a medical emergency.
Hormonal changes such as those during pregnancy can cause wrist pain. Numbness and pain in your wrists and hands can also be an indication of thyroid and diabetic problems.