Arm pain can be the result of a variety of different factors, including injury to the nerves, joints, soft tissues, bones, skin, and blood vessels.
There are some chronic conditions, including a condition known as fibromyalgia that includes arm pain as a symptom.
Depending upon the cause and the location of the arm pain, it can also be accompanied by stiffness of the joints, and regional swelling, numbness, tenderness, and redness.
In some cases, conditions such as arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, or even fibromyalgia can be the cause of arm pain. The causes of arm pain can be just simple annoyances or even severe, life-threatening conditions. Treatments for arm pain depend upon the cause.
Fibromyalgia as a Cause of Arm Pain
Fibromyalgia is a condition that falls under the realm of chronic pain. Chronic pain is pain that lasts for three months or longer.
Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread tenderness and pain- widespread meaning that it is both above and below your waist as well as on both the left and right sides of your body.
Fibromyalgia ranges in intensity from mild discomfort all the way up to an excruciating pain that keeps you from carrying on your routine activities.
Some individuals who have been diagnosed with the condition of fibromyalgia describe their pain as “all over.” For some, the stiffness and pain related to this condition are worst when they first wake up and improves as the day wears on- and then increase again in the evening and at night.
On the other hand, some individuals experience non-stop pain all day long. This can include combinations of back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, arm pain, leg pain, neck pain, and so much more. The condition of fibromyalgia can result in pain in nearly every single body part.
Typically, the pain related to the condition of fibromyalgia will increase with anxiety, stress, and even physical activity.
In addition, individuals with this condition are typically sensitive to the environment around them, including loud sounds, bright lights, heat and/or cold, and so much more. For individuals with this condition, even a gentle hug can send them reeling in pain.
While it is true that pain is the primary symptom of the condition of fibromyalgia, different people will experience this pain in different ways.
Following are some of the ways that individuals experience the pain of fibromyalgia:
Additional Symptoms of Fibromyalgia
Some of the other common symptoms of the condition of fibromyalgia include the following:
- Disruptions in sleep
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Difficulty with memory/recall
- Anxiety and/or depression
In some cases, there are co-existing conditions including:
- Restless leg syndrome
- Irritable bowel syndrome
Treating Arm Pain
As we previously mentioned, the treatment of arm pain will depend very heavily on the cause of it. If you experience arm pain along with other symptoms that concern you, it is advisable that you see your physician for evaluation.
On the other hand, if you have an idea of what caused your arm pain (an injury, for instance), you can start by using some at-home treatments.
Following are some of the most common at-home treatments form arm pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Rest: if your arm is stiff and/or sore, take the time to rest it. This can include stopping, changing, or simply taking a break from a particular activity that is causing your arm pain.
Ice: ice is a very common at-home treatment for pain and/or swelling. Simply apply an ice/cold pack immediately following an injury to keep it from swelling. Ice packs should be applied 3 or more times in a 24 hour period but should be applied 20 minutes or less.
For the first 48 hours following an injury, you should avoid things that can increase swelling such as heat and alcohol.
After that, as long as the swelling has gone down, you can begin to do gentle exercise and apply heat to maintain/restore flexibility. In fact, some experts even recommend that you alternate between heat packs and cold packs.
Compression: wrapping the sore area can help to prevent swelling- you must be careful that you do not wrap it too tight or you can cause more swelling below the area that you have wrapped. If you notice the bandage becoming too tight, loosen it immediately.
Some of the signs that the bandage is too tight include tingling, coolness, increased pain, and numbness. If you feel you must use a bandage for more than 72 hours, you should speak with your physician because you could have a more serious underlying problem.
Elevation: when you are sitting or lying down, you should use pillows to elevate the painful arm at the level of or slightly above your heart in order to minimize the possibility of swelling. You can apply heat while you have your arm elevated.
If you are wearing jewelry such as rings, watches, bracelets, or anything else on your arm/hand, make sure that you remove it at the very first sign of swelling.
If you wait, it becomes much more difficult to remove it as the swelling continues to increase. If you do not remove jewelry before swelling increases, it can cause other problems such as restricted blood flow and/or nerve compression.
If it helps, feel free to wear a sling to keep your arm immobile. On the other hand, if you feel that you must use a sling for 48 hours or more, you should see your physician immediately and discuss your signs and symptoms with him or her.
To encourage the flow of blood to the area, as well as help with pain relief, you can gently massage/rub the affected area. On the other hand, if massage/rubbing causes pain, you should not do this.
You should avoid smoking or using any other tobacco products because these products cause your body to heal much more slowly than normal.