Life is full of minor aches and pains, and knowing when to seek medical attention is one of the ongoing dilemmas we all face. Is this normal? Will it go away on its own? Could it indicate an underlying condition?
At CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center, with multiple locations throughout Maryland, we field these questions and more on a daily basis, so we understand your concerns. You don’t want to make an unnecessary appointment, but neither do you want to ignore a potentially serious problem.
In this blog, our health experts lay out some practical guidelines on arm pain, so you can evaluate your condition and know when to seek professional help.
When to stay home and treat your arm pain
Everyday aches and pains, such as those you get after playing a new sport or overexerting yourself, don’t usually require a doctor’s care. However, they may take a little extra self-care. For minor soreness due to tired muscles and repetitive activity, try the RICE method, which stands for the following:
If your arm pain bugs you despite taking these measures, taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications — such as aspirin and ibuprofen — should reduce your pain.
When to schedule an appointment for arm pain
If a few days pass and self-care hasn’t reduced your arm pain, it may be time to schedule an appointment to come see us. Here are some indicators that you might need professional assistance to resolve your arm pain:
- Rest and self-care don’t help
- It hurts when you lift or reach
- The pain toggles from an ache to a sharp stabbing sensation
- Your arm hurts even when you’re not using it
- Your arm is swollen
- You see or feel a lump
These symptoms may indicate a number of conditions, such as arthritis, tendonitis, nerve damage, or cysts. We can evaluate your arm, run appropriate tests, diagnose the cause of your arm pain, and get you started on the right treatment plan.
When to seek prompt care for arm pain
Perhaps the toughest call is discerning the difference between arm pain that needs urgent care and arm pain that needs emergency care. There are two criteria we typically use to determine when arm pain requires same-day care:
- You can't move your arm or fingers
- You have numbness or tingling in your arm or fingers
These symptoms can mean you have severely damaged nerves, a rotator cuff injury in your shoulder, or even a fracture.
When to call 911 for arm pain
Most arm pain doesn’t require emergency care, but there are instances when it’s important to get to an emergency room right away. These situations include the following:
- A dislocated joint
- A deep laceration or gash
- You can’t feel your arm
- Severe pain
- Protruding bone
- Loss of radial pulse
- Discoloration and cold to the touch
These are signs of serious trauma, and emergency care is required.
But not all arm pain is directly related to your arm. Heart problems often cause arm pain, too. Two types of heart trouble can affect your arm: angina and a heart attack.
Angina isn’t a heart condition, but rather, a symptom that your heart is struggling to get enough oxygen. When it occurs, you may suspect a heart attack, because the feelings can be similar. You may feel squeezing in the chest area and pain in your arms, shoulders, back, jaw, or neck. It may also mimic the feeling of indigestion.
A heart attack is more serious and occurs when your heart is deprived of blood, typically the result of coronary artery disease. The symptoms are sudden chest pain, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and pain in the neck, jaw, shoulders, back, or arms.
If you have symptoms of heart-related conditions, call 911 immediately and do not drive yourself to the hospital.
What we do for arm pain
No matter what’s causing your pain, whether it’s carpal tunnel syndrome, a torn rotator cuff, nerve damage, or arthritis, we take an interdisciplinary approach to health care and consider all the factors that affect you.
We develop a treatment plan that alleviates your pain by addressing the underlying issues, including those that may exacerbate your condition, such as excess weight, inactivity, or other lifestyle factors. Your treatment may include injections to reduce inflammation, physical therapy to increase flexibility and function, and even acupuncture and massage to stimulate circulation and promote healing.
If you have arm pain, we can help. To get a thorough evaluation and a treatment plan to relieve your pain, book an appointment online or over the phone with CHOICE Pain & Rehabilitation Center today.