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Arm pain: causes and therapy

Arm pain: causes and therapy


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Arm pain is a relatively common complaint that can severely restrict the person's everyday life. Because the complaints often occur during simple activities, so brushing your teeth or getting dressed can quickly become a pain.

Various diseases and injuries to the bones, joints, muscles and tendons, such as e.g. sore muscles, bruises, breaks, rheumatism or osteoporosis. Basically, pain in the arm should always be clarified by a doctor, because it can also indicate a gradual wear and tear of the joints (arthrosis) or even a heart attack. The treatment depends on the cause and can therefore be very different. In the case of sports injuries or pain due to overload ("tennis elbow"), e.g. an ointment bandage often helps, but bottleneck syndromes and complicated fractures in most cases require surgery.

Arm pain: definition and symptoms

Arm pain usually includes all the pain that occurs in the upper limbs. The arm consists of the upper arm bone (humerus), the ulna (ulna), spoke (radius) and the elbow joint, plus numerous muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves and blood vessels. The ulna and spoke are articulated on the elbow and wrist. The upper arm bone is connected to the forearm via the elbow joint and to the shoulder girdle or trunk via the shoulder joint.

The pain in the arms can be sudden (acute) or chronic and can be perceived as pulling, biting, dull, oppressive or stabbing, for example. Depending on the cause, inflammatory swelling or overheating at the affected area as well as restricted mobility, emotional disturbances (tingling, walking with ants, etc.) or symptoms of paralysis are possible.

Causes of arm pain in the upper arm

Upper arm pain occurs in the area between the shoulder joint and elbow, but radiating shoulder or elbow pain can also be perceived as such. The symptoms often occur in connection with neck pain and tension, a stiff neck can also be accompanied by pulling pain in the upper arm.

The cause is often injuries caused by external violence (trauma injuries) such as Bruising, bruises, torn muscle fibers, strains or broken bones that result from an accident, fall or hard impact. In this case, the pain is usually perceived as stinging, burning or boring, in addition there is often a clearly recognizable, reddish swelling in the affected area and a hematoma (“bruise”), which, depending on the severity of the injury, extends to large parts of the upper arm can spread.

Pain and restricted movement in the upper arm can be caused by impairments of the muscles, surrounding connective tissue structures, blood vessels and nerves. These are often due to overload and arise as a result of years of continuous, always the same movement sequences, which in combination with unfavorable strength and posture requirements damage the tissue. Especially people who work on the PC for hours every day are often affected by the so-called "mouse arm" (medical: Repetitive Strain Injury, in short: RSI). working on the assembly line is an increased risk. In addition to the pain, the tissue damage often results in restricted movement, loss of strength in the affected arm, numbness and sensations or repeated falling asleep in the hands.

Muscle-related pain can result from heavy loads during strength or martial arts, and a longer immobilization of the arm (e.g. in plaster) can cause discomfort in the upper area of ​​the arm. If the pain radiates over a large area, a nerve may be trapped. This is a compression (compression) of the nerve fibers, which often only occurs with certain movements, which means that affected people e.g. only have arm pain. In rare cases, however, there may be permanent compression, as a result of which the affected person experiences permanent pain even when at rest.

The pain in the upper part of the arm can also be caused by a benign tumor of the cells of the adipose tissue (medically “lipoma”). In most cases, lipomas lie directly under the skin and are therefore visible or palpable from the outside as a small knob. Rarely, a benign soft tissue tumor can also lie deeper and e.g. grow in the muscles, which means that they often go undetected at first. Nevertheless, lipomas usually remain harmless, only in very rare cases does a malignant tumor develop from them.

Other possible causes include rheumatic diseases, osteoarthritis or tendonitis (tendovaginitis). Osteoporosis, bursitis, skin diseases (e.g. psoriasis), circulatory disorders, a blood clot or the so-called "carpal tunnel syndrome" can also be the trigger for the symptoms.

Left arm pain can be a warning sign of a heart attack

In addition to the functional causes, organic diseases can also be responsible. Especially in the case of older people, sudden, severe pain in the (left) arm should always be considered a heart attack. Because the patient is not extremely bad with every infarction, sometimes even minor complaints occur. However, alarm signals are in any case severe chest pain that lasts longer than five minutes and can radiate into the left arm or both arms, neck, jaw, shoulder or upper abdomen, as well as massive chest tightness, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting. There are also a number of other important warning signs such as Facial pallor, cold sweat, dizziness, weakness and restlessness. Since a heart attack is an absolute medical emergency, do not hesitate if you suspect it, but always call the emergency doctor immediately.

Forearm pain

If the pain in the forearm occurs, there are many different causes, such as bone and joint problems, muscular problems, nerve irritation or circulatory disorders. Often there is an overload of the muscles, tendons and ligaments, which is usually caused by incorrect posture (for example when doing housework, sleeping), faulty sports techniques or ergonomically unfavorable workplaces. Professions such as hairdressers or bakers are also associated with an increased risk of overload-related arm pain, since the wrists and forearms are repeatedly exposed to uniform mechanical loads. A common consequence is painful inflammation of the tendons (tendinitis) or tendon sheaths (tendovaginitis). Likewise, the so-called “tennis elbow”, “mouse arm” or, more rarely, a “golf elbow” due to the irritation and changes in the area of ​​the forearm and elbow caused by overload. develop.

Another possible cause is nerve compression or a pinched nerve. This can affect, among other things, the Ulnar nerve, one of the most important nerves of the arm, which e.g. allows the flexing of fingers and wrists. The ulnar nerve runs on the inside of the elbow through the so-called "cubital tunnel" (lat. Cubitus = elbow), a narrow channel that lies between a bone groove (sulcus nervi ulnaris), a collateral ligament and a rough tendon plate (aponeurosis). If there is an additional narrowing in this narrow tunnel, the nerve is irritated and there are considerable complaints such as Arm pain, impaired function and sensation disorders of the hand. This so-called "cubital tunnel syndrome" is usually caused by direct damage such as causes a fracture, but chronic pressure damage (e.g. due to permanent support of the elbow), bony changes or local overgrowth of the nerve tissue are also possible.

Severe pain in the forearm also occurs with bruises or fractures, which often result from an accident or fall. A forearm fracture, in which the spoke (radius) breaks in most cases, e.g. often falling on the outstretched hand ahead. Because at this moment, a large part of the body weight acts on the forearm bones, which, however, cannot withstand the stress and eventually break. This affects children particularly often, but even in older people, the reduced bone stability in the event of a fall causes the spoke to break more quickly. Osteoporosis (bone loss), which combines weak bones and an increased tendency to fall, also increases the risk of fractures and the associated pain. Cardiac arrhythmias and circulatory disorders in the brain can also promote falls and broken bones, as dizziness, drowsiness or even loss of consciousness are more common in these cases.

Rheumatic diseases, (contaminated) wounds or injuries in the area of ​​the hands, neck and shoulders, a herniated disc in the neck area or carpal tunnel syndrome are also possible causes. Likewise, in the context of infections such as A cold or flu often causes body aches. So-called “cervical spondylosis” is also conceivable. This is an arthrosis of the vertebral joints on the cervical spine, which often causes a stiff neck and pain in this area at the beginning. Depending on the type and location of the signs of wear, these can radiate into the back of the head, shoulder area, face, arms and hands. Those affected often experience slight numbness or tingling in the arms at the same time, dizziness, balance disorders and weakness are also possible.

Diagnosis of aching arms

In the case of pain in the arm, those affected should be very attentive and always consult a doctor as a precaution, especially in the case of suddenly pronounced, long-lasting or recurring complaints. Harmless pain in the arm, as is often the case e.g. after carrying heavy loads or unusual movements (when renovating, doing crafts, etc.), on the other hand, disappear in most cases again as soon as you have given the arm some protection.
The doctor often receives important information about the cause of the arm pain through a detailed medical history (previous illnesses, physical stress, etc.) and the clarification of the symptoms by scanning the affected areas. Questions like "Where exactly does it hurt?", "How does the pain feel? Burning, boring or rather pulling? ”And“ In which situations does he appear? ”Help the doctor to get a comprehensive impression and should therefore be answered by the patient as specifically as possible. Imaging methods such as X-rays, ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging are used to support or in case of doubt.

Treatment for arm pain

The treatment depends on the respective cause and can therefore include very different measures from case to case. Functional complaints such as muscle pain, tension or nerve compression can often be alleviated by medical massages in connection with physiotherapy exercises, in some cases acupuncture can offer another valuable addition. To treat the acute symptoms, anti-inflammatory painkillers such as Ibuprofen or Diclofenac are used.

If the pain is due to a fracture, the arm is e.g. in the case of uncontaminated, isolated ulna or spoke shaft fractures or forearm shaft fractures in children, usually immobilized first with a plaster splint and then with a closed plaster cast Open, slowly healing or postponed fractures usually require surgery to straighten the bones and ensure long-term stabilization of the arm.

Even with tendonitis, it is particularly important to immobilize and protect the affected area, for which the use of bandages or support bandages is recommended. If swellings and redness appear in parallel, cooling pads are a good help, and if necessary pain and anti-inflammatory creams or tablets can relieve the symptoms.

With bottleneck syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome, the symptoms at the beginning of the disease can often be alleviated with special wrist splints or anti-inflammatory cortisone. In the advanced stage and in the case of persistent complaints, however, an operation is usually carried out in which the damaged structures are relieved.

If the doctor has diagnosed a so-called "tennis or mouse arm" or golfers' elbow, in addition to painkillers, non-surgical measures are usually also initially taken, such as Ointment bandages, cold and heat treatments, stretching exercises, massages or electromechanical stimulation are used. A special bandage can also help, but operations are only necessary in very rare cases. If you suffer from arm pain as a result of constant overloading, incorrect posture, etc., you should also consider that in order to achieve long-term improvement, the triggering circumstances must be changed. This means e.g. a corresponding redesign of the workplace from an ergonomic point of view (correct setting of the screen height, palm rest, special mouse etc.) as well as a general avoidance of unfavorable, monotonous postures and movements.

Naturopathy for arm pain

A number of natural remedies and alternative treatment methods also offer help for arm pain. Has proven successful herbal medicine, because arnica or combination products made from essential oils such as bergamot or lavender oil can help to alleviate severe pain. If the pain is due to an overworked, tense muscles, various homeopathic remedies have proven to help relax the muscles. If the symptoms get worse, for example, from exercise, Bryonia can help. Rhus toxicodendron, on the other hand, is particularly suitable for muscle pain that intensifies at night or at rest.

Kicking as part of a cold or the like In addition to a general feeling of sickness and exhaustion and body aches, taking Eupatorium perfoliatum can be useful. If the cause of the arm pain is a previous injury (e.g. contusion, strain, blow), natural medicine often recommends arnica and witch hazel, which are used both externally in the form of an ointment and internally as globules. If the muscle pain is felt in the whole arm and worsens when moving, the "bulbous buttercup" (Ranunculus bulbosus) has proven itself. On the other hand, if physical activity helps and the symptoms increase rather at rest, rhododendron can be the method of choice.

In addition, Schüssler salts can be an effective support for pain in the arms. Here, among other things, the salt No. 1 (Calcium Fluoratum) comes into question, which is responsible for the elasticity of the tissue and can accordingly relieve tension and tension. If numbness or discomfort (tingling, walking with ants, furry, etc.) occurs in the arms parallel to the pain, salt No. 2 (Calcium Phosphoricum) may be indicated to relieve the nerves, tendons and muscle strains.

Salt arm 3 (Ferrum Phosphoricum) can help with arm pain as a result of acute injuries such as bruises, bruises or sprains; in the event of a break, Schüssler Salt No 2 (Calcium phosphoricum) naturally supports the bone to grow together. If the arm hurts due to inflammation, Ferrum Phosphoricum has also proven itself in the early stages, but in the further course, potassium chloratum (acute stage) and potassium sulfuricum (healing process) are more suitable.

If the arm pain is due to tension, massages or the so-called "progressive muscle relaxation" can also help. In addition, acupuncture is often used to relieve pain and inflammation in the case of overload diseases such as the tennis elbow or golf elbow. A prerequisite for continued success in treatment is, however, that the pain-causing circumstances are changed in parallel, e.g. For the time being, do not play tennis or the PC workstation is redesigned according to ergonomic criteria. (No)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dipl. Social Science Nina Reese

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