Minor arm problems, such as sore muscles, are common. Symptoms often develop from everyday wear and tear or overuse. Arm problems may be minor or serious and 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, because they lose muscle mass as they age. Children may have arm problems because they are usually more active than adults and their 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, and work or projects around the home. Arm problems can also be caused by injuries. If you think your arm problem is caused by an injury, see the topic Arm Injuries.
It may be helpful to know the structure of the arm to better understand arm problems. Common arm problems that are not caused by a specific injury, such as a blow or fall, include the following:
- Overuse or repetitive-motion injuries 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 or tendinitis. Carpal tunnel syndrome is another example of an overuse injury.
- Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling 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 can be caused by hormone changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or with premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
- Swelling may also occur after surgery to remove the lymph nodes under the arm following a diagnosis of breast cancer or melanoma. This is called lymphedema.
- Arm problems can occur as symptoms of other more serious problems, such as heart attack, transient ischemic attack (TIA), or 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 is needed to relieve symptoms and promote healing.
Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.