Home > Health & Wellness > Health Library > Arm Problems, Noninjury
Minor arm problems, such as sore muscles, are common. Symptoms often are caused by everyday wear and tear or overuse. Arm problems may be minor or serious. They 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. That's because they lose muscle mass as they age. Children may have arm problems because they are usually more active than adults. And children's 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, or work or projects around the home. Arm problems can also be caused by injuries.
It may be helpful to know the structure of the arm to better understand arm problems. Common arm problems that aren't caused by a specific injury, such as a blow or fall, include:
Most minor arm problems will usually get better on their own. Home treatment may be all that's needed.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Pain in adults and older children
Symptoms of a heart attack may include:
For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and this change does not go away.
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Try the following tips to help relieve arm pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Remove rings, bracelets, watches, and any other jewelry from your hand and arm. It will be hard to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.
It's important to rest and protect the affected area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may be causing your pain or soreness.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs right away to prevent or reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
Compression, or wrapping the area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling.
Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.
If it makes you more comfortable and supports the affected area, wear a sling.
For 48 hours, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.
After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat. You can start gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and keep flexibility. Some experts advise switching between heat and cold treatments.
Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Don't massage the affected area if it causes pain.
Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
If you need to use a wrap or a sling for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.
Try the following tips to help relieve arm cramps.
If you don't have swelling, you may rub or gently massage the cramp.
If you think that your muscle cramps are brought on by exercise, heat, or dehydration, drink some extra water. Or drink an electrolyte replacement drink (such as Gatorade or Pedialyte) diluted with water to half strength. These drinks will help replace sugar, salt, and other minerals. Be sure to read and follow any label warnings. Avoid drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol.
Gentle motion may help with cramps brought on by exercise.
Most people get enough minerals by eating a normal variety of foods. Talk with your doctor about taking extra calcium.
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.