What Causes Pain in Upper Arm Below Shoulder?

Muscle pain in the upper arm below the shoulder is often caused by tension and trigger points that you can usually treat yourself, with excellent results.

Muscle pain in the upper arm below the shoulder is often caused by tension and trigger points that you can usually treat yourself, with excellent results.

Upper arm pain describes pain that is felt anywhere from just below the shoulder joint to simply above the elbow. It might be an issue in the muscles, tendons or bones, or even referred pain from in other places such as the neck or heart. Here we will look at the most common causes of upper arm pain, how they present, how to discriminate in between them, how to know if it is serious and how to treat them.

Even basic daily activities can be hard when a muscle in your upper arm aches. The cause of your pain might be fairly obvious, especially if your pain started suddenly in association with a traumatic injury or recent heavy lifting.

Other causes of upper arm muscle pain, such as a shoulder injury, nerve compression or other medical conditions, may not be as readily apparent.

Strain Injury

A strain injury is a typical cause of upper arm muscle achiness. This injury occurs when a muscle and/or its associated tendon is overstretched, resulting in tearing of the fibers. Strain injuries vary from mild to severe, depending upon the degree of tearing. A total tear, or rupture, is the most severe kind of strain injury.

Pain connected with a strain happens instantly or shortly after the injury, which assists distinguish this condition from easy muscle discomfort. Activity that includes use of the impacted muscle aggravates the pain and rest decreases it.

There may likewise be swelling, tightness, muscle cramps or spasms, and perhaps bruising with more severe strains. Moderate strains normally recover within 2 to 3 weeks. Complete healing with a more severe strain can use up to 2 to 3 months. Upper arm strains typically occur due to heavy lifting or overuse of a tired muscle.

Shoulder Injury

Inflammation of your shoulder joint and/or the associated tendons may set off achiness in your upper arm muscles. This pain is generally felt in the outer muscles of your upper arm. The most common reason for this kind of pain is shoulder impingement, which includes pinching of the structures in between the bones in your shoulder.

Pain in your upper arm generally increases with activity and may decrease with rest. Nighttime pain often occurs with shoulder impingement and there may be restricted mobility of the shoulder joint. This condition normally establishes due to recurring overhead work, sports activities or extended poor posture with the shoulders rolled forward.

Nerve Compression

Nerves leave your spine in between each of your vertebrae, the bones of your spinal column. Cervical spine nerves exit in between the vertebrae in your neck. They supply experience to the skin and power to the muscles of your arms and hands. The spine nerve C5 supplies sensation to your upper arm. This nerve can be compressed by a bulging intervertebral disc, a structure that provides padding between the vertebrae.

Arthritis-related bone modifications in the neck can likewise lead to C5 nerve compression. This condition often causes pain in the outer element of the upper arm. Neck and shoulder pain may likewise be present. Placing the hand of the affected arm on top of the head might reduce upper arm pain triggered by C5 nerve compression.

Humerus Fracture

A break in your upper arm bone, the humerus, can cause achiness that you might assume is coming from your muscles. While a traumatic humerus fracture is typically apparent after a fall or strong blow to your upper arm, the symptoms of a break in this bone can often be subtle.

Hairline stress fractures of the humerus can happen if you regularly play overhead sports — those that include forceful overhead arm motions, such as tennis, racquetball, handball, volley ball and baseball pitching. Symptoms include progressively increasing upper arm pain with overhead use and achiness at rest.

Rotator Cuff Tear

This is a common cause of pain in the upper arm triggered by damage to one of the tendons of the rotator cuff – a group of muscles that surround the shoulder joint and manage the motion and stability of the shoulder.

May be progressive due to wear and tear over time from recurring friction, or unexpected with an injury such as falling on to an outstretched arm or picking up something heavy. Main symptoms of the problem are upper arm pain across the shoulder and down the upper arm, normally a dull pains, weakness and cracking/popping sounds when you move your arm.

Shoulder Impingement

This is a collective term for anything that lowers the quantity of space in part of the shoulder, referred to as the subacromial area, which positions pressure and friction on the rotator cuff. It is a common reason for shoulder and upper arm pain impacting roughly 20% of people at some point usually brought on by repeated overhead activities such as throwing or swimming, aging, posture or genetics. Gradual beginning that gets gradually even worse gradually. Many frequently establishes in midlife (45-65).

Signs of the problem are shoulder and upper arm pain, typically on the exterior of the arm which might extend down to the elbow, often described as feeling like toothache. Painful arc with shoulder motion (as displayed in image) and weakness. Shoulder motion is not usually limited initially, however with time, tightness might develop due to absence of use.

Frozen Shoulder

Thickening and tightening up of the joint pill, a fluid filled sac that surrounds the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint. Gradual start over weeks/months, most common in between the ages of 40-70 and in females. Frequently no apparent cause but it can establish after a shoulder injury or surgery.

There are three phases to a frozen shoulder symptoms – shoulder and upper arm pain that gets gradually worse (stage 1) then increasing constraint of shoulder motion (phase 2) in what is referred to as a capsular pattern– lateral rotation most limited, then flexion and median rotation least impacted. The pain slowly subsides but tightness stays for a variety of months (phase 3). The pain is often even worse at night.

Other Conditions

Upper arm pain that appears to be emerging from muscle can accompany several other conditions, consisting of:

  • An infection of the humerus
  • A noncancerous or cancerous tumor of the humerus
  • An embolism in an upper arm vein
  • Heart attack

Next Steps, Warnings and Precautions

See your doctor for a precise medical diagnosis if you experience upper arm muscle pain. Seek immediate medical care if your arm pain started in association with a traumatic injury, such as a hard blow to your arm or a fall. Seek emergency treatment if your arm pain is accompanied by any warning signs or symptoms, including:

  1. Problem breathing or shortness of breath
  2. Chest tightness or pain
  3. Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  4. Sudden numbness or tingling
  5. Weakness or paralysis
  6. Difficulty speaking or comprehending others’ speech
  7. A sudden vision change in one or both eyes
  8. Problem walking, loss of balance or bad coordination

Last modified: May 7, 2018

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