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shooting pain in arm

shooting pain in arm

shooting pain in arm

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shooting pain in arm

As Chiropractors, Osteopaths and sports therapists, the ProBack team are responsible for more than just back pain but for the mechanical components of the whole body; how they align and interact is key to understanding how any pain evolves including pain in the arms.

We see many patients whose arm pain is a direct result of nerve compression within the upper back or neck; similar to the well-known entrapment in the lower back known as sciatica, neck radiculopathy (trapped nerves) most commonly involve shooting pain down the arm often extending into the wrist and fingers, however sometimes the pain occurs just in the elbow or wrist without additional symptoms.

Pain in the left arm

If your arm hurts, your first thought may be that you injured your arm. Pain in one part of the body can sometimes originate elsewhere. A pain in your left arm could mean you have a bone or joint injury, a pinched nerve, or a problem with your heart.

shooting pain in arm
shooting pain in arm

Causes with accompanying symptoms

There are many reasons why you might have pain in your left arm, including complications from arthritis and other chronic diseases. From a simple strain to a heart problem, here are a few possible causes:

Heart attack

A heart attack occurs when a portion of the heart muscle sustains damage or completely stops functioning due to a lack of oxygen.

Most heart attacks happen as a result of narrowing in the coronary arteries. The arteries become narrow due to a buildup of plaque. If a piece of plaque breaks loose from the artery wall, it can cut off the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart, which may cause a heart attack.

Left arm pain is one of the most common symptoms of a heart attack. The nerves that branch from the heart and those coming from the arm send signals to the same brain cells. As a result, the brain cannot isolate the source of the pain.

This phenomenon, called referred pain, explains why a person experiencing a heart attack might feel arm pain without having chest painTrusted Source.

Heart attack

The American Heart Association advise calling 911Trusted Source if sudden left arm pain gets worse over a few minutes or occurs alongside any of the following symptoms:

  • discomfort at the center of the chest that lasts longer than a few minutes or goes away and then returns
  • pain, numbness, or unusual discomfort in the back, neck, jaw, or lower abdomen
  • breathlessness with or without chest pain
  • indigestion
  • nausea or vomiting
  • lightheadedness
  • sudden cold sweats or flushing

Chest discomfort is the most common symptom of heart attacks in men and women. It takes the form of pressure, tightness, fullness, burning, or gradually building pain.

However, women are also more likelyTrusted Source than men to experience other symptoms when having a heart attack, such as shortness of breath and nausea. They may incorrectly attribute these symptoms to a virus, indigestion, or stress.

If a person experiences any sudden combination of nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, or pain in the lower abdomen, back, or jaw, they should seek medical attention immediately.


Angina is a symptom of coronary heart disease. It means your heart muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood.

Angina causes symptoms like those of a heart attack, but usually lasts only a few minutes. It usually gets worse when you’re active and better when you rest.


Bursa is the fluid-filled sack between the bone and moving parts of a joint.

When the bursa becomes inflamed, it’s called bursitis. Bursitis of the shoulder is often the result of repetitive movement. The risk of bursitis increases with age.

The pain usually increases as you move or if you lie down on your arm or shoulder. You may not be able to fully rotate your shoulder. Other symptoms include burning and tingling.


Tendonitis is the inflammation of the connective tissue between muscle and bone. and often develops due to repetitive joint use. For this reason, tennis players, swimmers, and musicians often get tendonitis.

its in the shoulder or elbow could be the source of left arm pain.

Rotator cuff tear

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in its socket and help a person rotate the arm and lift objects.

A tear in the soft tissue of the rotator cuff can be very painful. It typically results from shoulder overuse or direct trauma. Aging also causes degeneration of the shoulder tissue, which can increase the risk of a tear.

shooting pain in arm
shooting pain in arm

Pain in the right arm

Unlike the left arm, when pain is felt in the right arm its far less of a concern as the heart does not refer to this side. Pain in the right arm therefore is far less sinister and can be from a multitude of biomechanical injuries as described below.

Causes of Arm Pain (either side)

Alternative causes for pain in the arm or wrist can be brought on by many different things, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Often specific injuries can be related from a certain individual action or a direct injury with an obvious cause such as a work or sports injury.

Yet there may be a more complicated problems related to a bio-mechanical issues as a result of stresses and strains on the system, it is impossible to underestimate the role of the neck and the nerves supplying the arm in this scenario; as they coordinate the firing or movement patterns or the arm an irritation at the top of the neck can lead to a muscular instability and eventual injury further down the extremity.

shooting pain in arm

Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis)


  • Stiffness in the shoulder joint that gets worse over time
  • Pain with movement
  • Difficulty sleeping

Frozen shoulder is a condition where the shoulder gradually gets stiffer and stiffer. As the shoulder stiffens, it becomes painful when you try to move it. You may also have dull, aching pain at rest and pain that makes it difficult to sleep at night. Symptoms usually start gradually (freezing stage), stabilize (frozen stage), then gradually improve as your range of motion returns (thawing stage).

Treatment for frozen shoulder includes physical therapy, pain-relieving medications, and sometimes cortisone injections. It usually improves slowly over time, but it can take 12 to 18 months (or in some cases up to 3 years) for the range of motion to improve completely. Rarely, surgery may be necessary.

Neck arthritis (cervical disc disease)


  • Neck pain
  • Pain that shoots into the back of the shoulder
  • Pain that shoots into the arm
  • Numbness or tingling in the arm

Neck arthritis causes narrowing of the discs that cushion the neck bones. This can cause the discs to bulge out from in between the bones. These bulging discs can then put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves that run into the arm.

Neck arthritis can also cause bone spurs to form around the nerves and spinal cord. These bone spurs can also place pressure on the nerves in the neck.

These “pinched nerves” can cause severe pain in the neck, shoulder, and arm. The pain can be a burning or lightning sensation and you may feel numbness or tingling in the arm.

Most cases of neck arthritis and pinched nerves respond to treatments such as physical therapy, regular use of NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs), and modifying your activity.

In rare cases, neck arthritis can place severe pressure on the nerves or spinal cord leading to weakness in the arm or a condition called cervical myelopathy. This can cause difficulty walking, clumsiness, loss of balance, and urinary urgency. Contact your doctor immediately if you develop any of these symptoms.

shooting pain in arm
shooting pain in arm

See your doctor right away if you have:

  • Arm, shoulder or back pain that occurs with any sort of exertion and is relieved by rest — possibly signaling heart disease or chest discomfort caused by reduced blood flow to your heart muscle (angina)
  • A sudden injury to your arm, particularly if you hear a snap or cracking sound
  • Severe pain and swelling in your arm
  • Trouble moving your arm normally or turning your arm from palm up to palm down and vice versa

Taking Care of Yourself

Fortunately, many cases of arm pain are due to mild injuries to muscles, ligaments or tendons from overuse or overexertion. Unless it is a heart attack or broken bone, most people end up treating themselves for a period of time.

Many conditions causing arm pain, like overuse or tendinitis, can be treated by resting the arm, placing ice packs on the sore area, applying compression or elevating the arm to reduce swelling.

The important point to keep in mind is that persistent pain in arm that does not subside with self-treatment needs to be evaluated by a physician. It is better to get a doctor’s diagnosis than to take the chance of making a medical condition worse through lack of proper treatment.

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