Pain in the left arm , along with all types of pain affecting the chest, is one of the most feared and fearful and distressing events in the belief that it is a heart attack .
Although this hypothesis is not to be discarded among the possible causes , we will see that the symptoms in the event of a heart attack are much more pronounced and important than a trivial arm pain, and that therefore most of the time the real causes of the disorder are to be reported. to much less worrying factors: sometimes they can be solved with a few small tricks, sometimes instead they require medical attention, but nevertheless they do not constitute a danger to life.
As we will see, the most frequent causes of pain in the left arm are due to reasons related to posture, physical effort or orthopedic cases (trauma) but at the same time we must not underestimate the possible presence of autoimmune diseases as well as pathologies of interest. neurological.
When to worry
Considering that the pain in the left arm generates many fears in itself, let’s see which manifestations can really motivate concern for which it is necessary to contact 118 or go to the nearest emergency room.
The factors that legitimize the concern and prompt intervention can be summarized in a series of very acute symptoms that add up to the sensation of constriction in the arm, such as:
- sternal and retrosternal pain ;
- chest tightness;
- difficulty in breathing;
- profuse sweating;
- mental confusion;
- pangs in the heart ;
- lack of balance.
In the female gender, the symptoms of heart attack can present themselves in a different way than in the male sex, involving (in addition to those already described above), intense back pain, burning in the chest , vomiting and nausea, dizziness, feeling of cold and hot flashes at the shoulders, neck and head.
When these symptoms occur, the hypothesis of a heart attack becomes quite plausible, therefore, without wasting time waiting for the symptoms to pass by themselves, and without seeking comfort by reading some web articles, it is necessary to immediately contact the emergency number 118 In many other cases ,
which we will elaborate on on the next page, the pain in the left armand attributable to causes of slight or moderate entity.
What are the common causes of pain in the left arm
Together with traumatic events, they represent the most common reason behind pain in the left arm . The pain generally arises from the assumption of postures in which the arm holds a load for a long time, or in which it remains in an unnatural position and in which it undergoes compression (for example, keeping the arm under the head or under the pillow).
But this phenomenon also involves people who suffer from anxiety or in any case subject to strong periods of stress, which usually keep the muscles contracted for a long time due to tension.
This phenomenon involves the release of part of the cartilage disc that is interposed between two vertebrae, with respect to its normal location.
The release of the disc causes compression phenomena to damage the blood vessels and nerves directed to the left arm, causing tingling that mainly affects the fingers of the left hand , but which can also involve the arm, forearm and shoulder, and which they accompany even quite intense pains and limitations of movement.
Trauma is at the root of most pain in the left arm . By trauma we mean phenomena of various nature and entity, from simple bruises, to dislocations, up to fractures and wounds.
But by trauma we also mean those factors that arise more slowly and gradually generate even rather important injuries such as muscle strains and tears. These can arise following the execution of repeated movements or following physical exertion.
If the pain in the right arm is the result of a muscle tear, an incorrect movement or a bruise, just apply a specific ointment that acts directly on the pain and inflammation.
These are inflammatory phenomena (of an infectious or autoimmune nature) affecting the nerves of the brachial plexus that innervate the left arm, which in normal conditions allow its sensitivity and mobility.
Among the most well-known neurological pathologies there is multiple sclerosis, a pathology that leads to the progressive degeneration of the (myelin) sheath of the nerves, slowing down the transmission of nerve impulses. This leads to both sensory phenomena ( tingling , itching, pain) and motor phenomena (muscle weakness, difficulty in movement and development of disability).
Inflammation of tendons and ligaments
Given the continuous use and stresses to which the joints are subjected, and in particular the soft tissues that compose them (tendons, ligaments), it is easy to understand how much these sites are subject to inflammatory phenomena, mostly related to trauma and to the execution of repeated and forced movements.
In these cases it is generally necessary to leave the arm at rest, avoiding efforts until complete recovery, otherwise the pain will tend to become chronic over time due to the continuous stimulation of the injured tissues.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
This is a phenomenon resulting mainly from the assumption of incorrect postures that last for a long time, referring for example to the use of the computer mouse and keyboard for more hours a day or to the execution of repeated movements that long cause inflammation and fatigue, or again, it can be triggered by taking certain drugs such as antibiotics or anesthetics. To learn more about the symptoms related to carpal tunnel syndrome you can read our in- depth article .
The pathological mechanism involves the entrapment and compression of the median nerve (which derives from the brachial plexus), by the transverse carpal ligament, and this occurs mainly in women between 30 and 60 years of age. In the initial stages of the disease, the pain occurs mostly during the night and early morning hours and is so acute as to wake the subject.
The pain is accompanied by pins and needles affecting the wrist and the lateral half of the hand (thumb, index, middle and lateral half of the ring finger). In the more advanced stages of the disease, progressive motor difficulties also develop which extend to the forearm, arm and even the left shoulder.
The pain and motor difficulty lead to a reduced mobility of the arm, which in the space of some time will lose part of its muscle mass, resulting in a phenomenon that goes by the name of muscular hypotrophy.
Autoimmune disease that affects the joints in a targeted manner, therefore in the left arm we refer to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and then extends to the joints of the hand.
It is a disease that affects all joints, therefore, if present, the subject accuses very acute and widespread pain. It goes without saying that a single arm, or generally a single painful limb, does not provide sufficient data to support the hypothesis of rheumatoid arthritis. This disease affects mostly female subjects and causes bone deformities, progressive walking difficulties and very intense pains.
Among these, heart attack is undoubtedly the most feared cause of all, so much so that the association pain in the left arm-heart attackit is quite automatic for most people. Infarction or ischemia are phenomena in which there is a reduced blood supply to the heart through the coronary arteries, causing a state of suffering of the myocardial tissue, which if prolonged leads to necrosis and therefore death.
We have previously seen how pain in the arm alone is not indicative of a cardiac event, but that in the event of a heart attack the symptoms are decidedly more pronounced causing: profuse sweating, chest tightness, acute and stinging pain in the chest, tremors, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, confusion and severe distress.
Diagnosis and Therapies
We have previously seen and underlined the importance of carefully evaluating the perceived symptoms and which ones are indicative of a heart attack .or which in any case must really alarm.
As reiterated, in the event that the events are intense and prolonged, you must immediately contact 118 or go to the nearest emergency room. This could be an event that could seriously endanger the patient’s life, so it is important not to waste precious time.
Having clarified the discussion regarding the emergency conditions, let’s move on to the more common situations of more or less acute pain but limited in time. If the pain arises after having played a sporting activity or following an effort such as lifting weights or even if you have suffered a small trauma without significant results, there is no reason to worry. Generally a little rest of the limb, combined with ice packs, in most cases leads to a quick resolution of the problem.
When, however, the pain in the left armpersists, and perhaps pictures of muscle weakness, tingling, lack of strength, motor difficulties and pains that also affect the shoulder, forearm and hand are outlined, and it is necessary to undergo in-depth investigations. It is always a good idea to talk about it first with your doctor, who will advise you more specifically on the type of visit or examination most appropriate to the case.
The tests are usually entrusted to a specialist in orthopedics or neurology. The visit generally consists of two phases:
- the first of information gathering (anamnesis);
- the second for inspection.
During the anamnesis, the doctor asks all those questions that go to investigate the perceived symptoms: how long they manifest, if they intensify at particular times (for example during the night), if the subject feels tingling in the left hand or arm , difficulty in performing specific movements, a sense of weakness, widespread pain in the joints. It is also important to evaluate what the subject’s job duties are and investigate his sporting activities.
Once these data have been collected, the doctor proceeds to inspect the arm to check if the muscle tone is the same as the right arm, if there are signs of trauma such as fractures or dislocations, if the mobility of the joint is in any way hindered and if the patient feels pain. to the pressure of the hand.
At this point, on the basis of more precise diagnostic suspicions, further analyzes may be indicated, such as a simple blood sample to understand if the subject is affected by an autoimmune disease, or the execution of radiographs and magnetic resonance imaging to verify the state of health of the bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles of the arm.
Depending on the triggering cause, the therapies can be of a pharmacological nature and include the intake of anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers or antibiotics or they can be of a surgical nature.
In any case, one is wary in every way from relying on do-it-yourself therapies and diagnosis and the prescription of the correct diagnostic path must be entrusted only to an expert and competent doctor, the only one who has the knowledge useful for solving the problem.