Arm Pain

At SFMMG we have physicians and therapists that are experienced in treating your arm pain. The arm is made up of several bones and numerous ligaments and tendons. The arm also has very important nerves that originate in the neck area and are vital for normal function. Anyone of these structures can be damaged and cause arm pain. The arm may also be affected by compression of nerves in the neck. In rare cases, a heart attack can also cause arm pain. There are also cases when blood clots from the heart may break off and block off blood supply to the arm.


Arm Symptoms

Arm pain may be due to any number of infections and even cancers. However, the most common cause of arm pain is overuse injuries and falls. Arm pain is usually intense right after the injury but rapidly subsides. Some cases of nerve compression may cause continuous arm pain and lead to weakness. Most cases of arm pain respond to home remedies but a diagnosis is recommended to ensure that nothing serious is going on. Besides pain, arm pain can be associated with swelling and discoloration of the arm.


The majority of causes of arm pain are from traumatic falls or accidental injury during sporting activities. Often elderly males and females with osteoporosis fall on the arms and suffer fractures. Others who are also prone to arm injuries include children and athletes who are into contact sports. Repetitive stress or overuse of the arm and wrist are also common causes of pain. In some individuals injury to the neck area may result in damage to important nerves which supply the arm. These nerves can not only cause pain but can also weaken arm muscles and impair range of motion

• Brachial plexus injury in the neck area can lead to pain, numbness, tingling and weakness of the arm.    These symptoms are usually limited to one arm
• Fractures of the arm, wrist or elbow are more common after traumatic falls and need urgent treatment
• Sporting injuries can lead to muscle or nerve damage which can lead to arm weakness and pain.    Sometimes these injuries may be associated with sporadic shock like sensations down the arm
• Bursitis is accumulation of fluid in the small sacs of the joint
• Carpal tunnel syndrome is a very common cause of wrist and finger pain. The treatments depend on    the severity of the syndrome
• De Quervain's tenosynovitis is another cause of wrist pain due to inflammation of the tendons. The    disorder can be treated with NSAIDs and use of splints
• Kienbock disease occurs after injury to the wrist and results in stiffness, pain and swelling
• Post herpetic neuralgia can sometimes occur after an episode of herpes zoster or shingles, this    intensely painful disorder can now be decreased with the use of a vaccine
• Repetitive strain injuries of the arm are common in people who type, play racquet sports or do    mechanical work like drilling
• Sprains and strains are a common cause of arm pain
• Tendinitis is a common cause of arm pain. This may result from overuse injuries that occur from racquet    sports, golfing or manual jobs like drilling.
• Sometimes a blood clot from the heart may break off and block off blood supply to the arm. This    condition needs urgent treatment with blood thinners
• Women who undergo breast cancer surgery often develop a swollen arm that may require compression    bandages and arm elevation for long periods


The diagnosis of arm pain depends on the history and physical exam. In most cases x rays, CT scan or an MRI may be performed. If a nerve compression is suspected, you may undergo nerve conduction studies to determine if the nerve is functioning normally. If an infection is suspected, you may undergo a bone scan or aspiration of the joint. The treatment of arm pain depends on the cause and severity. Our doctors will inform you of the diagnosis and appropriate care once our examination is finished and tests are completed.

Self-care at home

No matter what type of arm injury, one can take steps to ease the pain and limit swelling. If you think that your arm is broken, then apply a sling to help stabilize the bones or if your arm is swollen, elevate it and then seek rapid medical assistance.

Other measures one can take to ease arm pain include

1) taking breaks from repetitive work
2) maintaining good upper body posture
3) using ergonomically designed furniture to ease tension of the wrist and elbows
4) wearing a splint if you have pain while playing musical instrument and
5) wearing protective gear if you are into sports.

While most cases of arm pain resolve on their own, one can help speed up the recovery process by

1) applying ice within 24 hours after the injury
2) elevating the arm
3) resting or taking a break from sports or work and
4) using a compression bandage to reduce swelling and stabilizing the arm

If you ever have doubt about your arm injury, it is recommended that one seek an opinion of our SFMMG doctors.

San Francisco Arm Pain Multi-Disciplinary Approach


The San Francisco Multi-Specialty Medical Group (SFMMG) provides Full Spectrum care for your arm pain. Our physicians and staff members represent a number of specialties including:

• Orthopedic Medicine Physiatry Chiropractic
• Podiatry
• Physical Therapy
• Acupuncture

Being able to offer appropriate, comprehensive and timely diagnosis and treatment in one location. Please call to schedule an appointment with our physicians at one of our locations.