The causes of arm pain can sometimes be very obvious or somewhat elusive depending on the reason for the pain. Obvious causes could be a recent injury, such as playing sports or lifting something too heavy. The symptoms may occur suddenly or gradual over a period of time. The pain may be severe and sharp or dull and vague. All descriptions of the pain are important and useful to the doctor when trying to accurately diagnose your condition.

There are also other less obvious causes where it is important to know exactly where the pain is felt, what time of day the pain occurs, what makes the pain better or worse or if there are other more serious symptoms associated with the arm pain such as fever, night sweats, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, numbness or tingling.

Sometimes the pain may be referred pain from a totally different area of the body such as the neck. This is most often caused from a herniated disc which compresses the spinal nerve roots and sometimes affects the spinal cord itself. The discs are the shock absorbers that sit between the bones of the spine. These discs can rupture through injury or disc degeneration and “pinch” the exiting nerves of that particular spinal level. Classic symptoms include a burning sensation in the arm and hand in a distributional type pattern, ie. inside or outside of the forearm, 1st and second digits, middle digit or 4th and 5th digits. Many times patients experience numbness and tingling in the same type patterns. Occasionally if the compression is severe, weakness may develop in a certain group of muscles.

When the spinal cord is impinged with a large disc herniation or with associated spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal), symptoms such as heaviness in the legs, loss of fine motor skills or an inability to walk a brisk pace may develop. These symptoms are referred to as myelopathy. This is an associated condition that is much more serious and the causes of such symptoms should be investigated quickly. Myelopathy can also be caused from space occupying lesions such as tumors pressing on the spinal cord.

Radiating Pain Down the Arms

While many sufferers of spinal conditions experience pain down their legs, the same conditions can cause radiating pain down the arms.Typically, pain that starts in the spine and radiates to the extremities is caused by sciatica. –Importantly, sciatica is a set of symptoms of an underlying problem, the cause of which must be determined in order to administer effective treatment.

Most sufferers of sciatica have a bulging or herniated disc; however, spinal stenosis, spondylosis, spondylolisthesis, or spinal cysts and tumors could also be the cause of sciatica and radiating pain down the arms.

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