What is arm problems and injuries?

Arm Problems and Injuries
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Arm problems, noninjury: Overview

Minor arm problems, such as sore muscles, are common. Symptoms often are caused by everyday wear and tear or overuse. Arm problems may be minor or serious. They may include symptoms such as pain, swelling, cramps, numbness, tingling, weakness, or changes in temperature or color.

Older adults have a greater chance of having arm problems. That's because they lose muscle mass as they age. Children may have arm problems because they are usually more active than adults. And children's bones and muscles are growing more quickly. They may also have arm problems for the same reasons as adults.

Your arm problem may be caused by sports or hobbies, work-related tasks, or work or projects around the home. Arm problems can also be caused by injuries.

It may be helpful to know the structure of the arm to better understand arm problems. Common arm problems that aren't caused by a specific injury, such as a blow or fall, include:

  • Overuse or repetitive-motion injuries. They can occur when you "overdo" an activity or repeat the same activity. The repeated activity may stress joints or other tissues and cause pain and swelling. This is called an overuse injury, even though no obvious injury occurred. For example, you may have shoulder pain from throwing a ball or raking leaves. Overuse injuries include bursitis and tendinitis. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another example.
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. They are common with arthritis. Osteoarthritis (also called degenerative joint disease) is the most common type of arthritis. Less common types include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Swelling of the hands and arms. It can be caused by hormone changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Swelling that occurs after surgery to remove the lymph nodes under the arm following a diagnosis of breast cancer or melanoma. This is called lymphedema.
  • Arm problems that occur as symptoms of other more serious problems, such as a heart attack, a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or a stroke. Sometimes the first symptom of a heart attack is pain in the left arm.

Most minor arm problems will usually get better on their own. Home treatment may be all that's needed.

What first aid steps should you take if you suspect a broken arm?

Most minor arm injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that's needed. But if you think that you might have a more severe injury, use first aid until you can be seen by a doctor.

  • Control bleeding with direct pressure to the wound.
  • Remove all bracelets and rings. It may be hard to remove the jewelry if your arm or hand swells. Swelling without removal of jewelry can cause other serious problems, such as a compressed nerve or restricted blood flow.
  • Don't try to straighten the injured arm. If a bone is sticking out of the skin, don't try to push it back into the skin. Cover the area with a clean bandage. Then use a splint to support the arm in its current position.
  • Splint an injured arm to protect it from more injury. Loosen the wrap around the splint if you have numbness, tingling, increased pain, swelling, cool skin, or other symptoms. The wrap may be too tight.
  • Use a sling to support the injured arm.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.