Have you been experiencing pain in left arm? and what has been your greatest worry? is it Heart attack? Maybe, or Fracture, Torn ligament or tendon? Well all your fears could be probable. Arm pain occurs between the wrist and shoulders but this is not always the case, it could also be due to spinal injuries that radiate to the arm and in deep left arm pain, the pain could also be due to a heart attack.
The arm is made up of three bones, muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments and joints all of which could be injured and be a source of arm pain. In left arm pain, there is a unique feature of heart attack that makes it a little unique
3Major Causes of Pain in Left Arm You Should Never Ignore
1. Heart attack or Cardiac arrest:
This is a sudden cessation of the myocardial activity of the heart that is; the heart suddenly stops beating and no longer functions. This occurs due to lack of enough oxygen supply to the heart and the heart starts getting energy through anaerobic process(in the absence of oxygen), this process leads to production of lactic acid and pain occurs as a result, this pain radiates to the left arm, shoulder and left jaw. The pain is of a sudden onset and is a medical emergency where the patient needs to be rushed to the hospital if death is not to occur.
If the person has been experiencing these episodes of pain, they should keep a log book of when the pain occurs, that is the precipitating factors that cause the pain, in this case, they could be: after rigorous activity: increases oxygen demand for the body which exceeds supply leading to anaerobic activity, eating a heavy meal: causes shunting of blood to the GIT(gastro intestinal tract)therefore reducing blood supply to the heart causing anaerobic activity, this should not cause you to be afraid of eating as I’m sure some of us would be afraid to do now, the aggravating(worsening) factors, timing of the pain, intensity of the pain, quality and quantity of the pain and relieving factors.
This occurs in people who already have an underlying heart disease that reduces blood supply. This conditions include: atherosclerosis (reduced intima(inner wall) of the coronary arteries by cholesterol deposition reducing the amount of blood that flows to the heart.
age related reduced elasticity and eventual hardening of the coronary arteries and reduced blood supply to the heart. hypertension: increased rate of blood flow along the vessels, myocardial infarction: a necrosed(dead) part of the heart muscle(myocardium) due to lack of blood supply. So anything thing that would trigger increased activity would precipitate the left arm pain.
Visiting a doctor most preferably a cardiologist is important so that underlying tests can be done like the Electrocardigram(ECG),Echocardiogram to determine the functioning of the heart and the extent of damage and appropriate medication initiated
3. Angina pectoris:
This is pain that is experienced on the chest and radiates to the left arm causing the left arm pain. The pain is due to reduced blood supply to the heart due to underlying pathology/disease of the heart leading to anaerobic respirations. It is the imminent threat to a possible heart attack and emergency medical attention is required.
It is important for the patient to note the PQRST complex of pain (precipitating factors, quality, quantity, radiation, relieving factors, and timing) for the doctor to be able to easily diagnose and timely manage the pain.
For emergency cases, the patient is given vasodilators(drugs that increase the lumen of the arteries/size so as to increase blood supply to the heart).it is easier to treat angina before heart attack occurs so please DO NOT TAKE THE PAIN FOR GRANTED
6Other General Causes of Left Arm Pain You Shouldn’t Ignore
1. Fracture pain:
This pain occurs when there is a broken bone of the arm, either the humerus, radius or ulna bone. The pain is sharp and of sudden onset, immediately the patient is unable to move the arm, it should be immobilized to avoid further injury and to also ease the pain a little.
The patient should visit the hospital for an X-ray to be done so as to confirm the fracture. In the event of an actual fracture a plaster is put to immobilize the arm, patient is also given pain killers to manage the pain.
Physiotherapy is also prescribed to avoid complications such as compartment syndrome which occurs due to nerves and blood vessel compression leading to a gangrene forming and could lead to an amputation.
2. Arm overuse and physical activity:
this is the most common cause of arm pain of either side. it occurs especially in people with a sedentary lifestyle and start working in extreme ways, or doing something that one is not normally used to do. The muscles of the arm become extremely overworked and anaerobic respiration occurs which comes with pain.
The condition can be managed using anti-inflammatory sprays like deep heat; the person could also monitor their activities to be able to discover the root cause of the pain and preferably avoid the same in future. Taking a hot bath also helps to relax the tense muscles and ease the pain as well. The pain should start subsiding in a few days or so but if it becomes chronic, its most definitely advisable to see a doctor
3. Posture and sleep position:
this is another cause of left arm pain. Just like any other part of the body if overused more than the other or put in awkward position could lead to pain, same to the left arm. In case the person slept in a bad position and applied extreme pressure to the left arm, it could lead to nerves around the area being obstructed leading to ‘dead’ arm or the pins and needles feeling.
If the arm was also put in a wrong position while sitted, pain could also occur. Normally the pain ceases after a while after the pressure is released and the arm resumes normal functioning.
4. Bad circulation:
as in poor posturing and sleep position, there could be pain due to poor circulation to the arm, this is more crucial than the posture pain as it could be due to an underlying pathology/disease of blood vessels, it is more chronic in nature and is highly advisable to visit a doctor to rule out any blood disorders.
this is an inflammation of the tendon (tough fibrous tissue that attaches muscle to bone).the inflammation could be due to a bruise or fall leading t pain of the area around the joint. The condition is more common in the area around the shoulders, elbows, wrist, ankle and heels.
It is what is most commonly called the tennis elbow, swimmer’s shoulder, jumper’s knee, golfer’s elbow due to overuse of the joints associated with the games.
In most cases, medications, physical therapy and rest is the recommended treatment but in some cases the tendinitis could cause rapture of the tendon requiring surgical repair.
6. Carpal tunnel syndrome:
This is a condition that causes the pain of the hand and is caused by anatomy of the hand, underlying health conditions and use of the arm. In most case use of the arm is the main reason for the pain.
The carpal tunnel is a region on the pail of the hand, the size of the round part of your arm that protects the main nerve(median) to the hand and includes tendons that bend the fingers, it occurs mostly in people who do a lot of tying in a day leading to injury of the median nerve.
The syndrome causes pain, tingling sensation and poor functioning of the arm leading to frequent dropping of items.
Treatment of Pain in Left Arm
Treatment options include resting the arm in between work, appling cold compresses to reduce swelling and in severe cases surgery and medications could be used.
Other minor causes of left arm pain could be strain or a sprain which occurs due to tortion or twisting of the arm in the opposite direction, mostly managed by cold packs and soft massages