How to manage acute arm pain

Acute arm pain is described by the abrupt onset of mild to severe discomfort that manifests on any part of the arm ranging from the wrist up to the shoulder. The main cause of acute arm pain usually includes injuries to the muscles, bones and tendons on the affected limb. In some cases, illnesses and infections can also instigate acute arm pain. The doctor will perform physical examination along with diagnostic testing as well as taking into consideration factors that are present during the onset of the discomfort to help determine the cause as well as the suitable treatment.

What are the types?

Acute arm pain can be non-traumatic or traumatic. When it comes to traumatic injuries, they have been the common cause of acute arm pain. These injuries usually occur in connection with falls, accidents, direct blows and sports injuries. As for the non-traumatic causes, it includes heart diseases and infections.

Acute arm pain

A broken arm bone has been a common cause of acute arm pain in both children and adults.

Traumatic causes

A broken arm bone has been a common cause of acute arm pain in both children and adults. If the individual falls on an inflexibly outstretched arm, it leads to a broken lower forearm. The fall-related fractures of the forearm can also occur among older individuals especially those who have osteoporosis. Fractures involving the upper arm and elbow are less common than the forearm fractures. If you want to properly manage a fracture, click here.

A direct blow to the arm can lead to soft tissue injury called as a contusion. Acute pain, bruising and swelling can also occur. Strong pulling, twisting and lifting injuries can also cause joint dislocations as well as tears on the muscles, tendon and ligaments.

Non-traumatic causes

One of the non-traumatic causes of acute arm pain is bacterial infection of the skin. Cellulitis is characterized by warm, tender, reddened area of skin that radiates outward as the infection spreads. In most cases, the condition can be accompanied by fever.

A heart attack is a life-threatening cause of acute arm pain. The heart-related pain can occur in one arm or both and usually accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and profuse sweating.

Diagnosing acute arm pain

When the doctor assesses the condition, it starts by determining when and how the pain started. The doctor will perform physical examination to assess the structure and function of the arm as well as detect other findings that can indicate the underlying cause of the pain.

Proper evaluation of the traumatic arm injury typically includes X-rays or other imaging studies to visualize the bones and other structures. EKG and blood tests are also requested to evaluate non-traumatic acute arm pain.

Treatment for acute arm pain

Depending on the severity of the injury sustained, the treatment for traumatic acute arm pain includes the application of ice and over-the-counter pain medications. In some cases, it would require surgery, casting and physical therapy.

Antibiotics have been the main form of treatment for acute arm pain instigated by cellulitis. The arm pain linked with a heart attack requires emergency care in order to restore blood flow to the heart. The treatment for the other causes of acute arm pain will depend on the underlying cause.


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