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Causes of Pain in the Left Arm & Elbow

author image Martin Hughes
Martin Hughes is a chiropractic physician, health writer and the co-owner of a website devoted to natural footgear. He writes about health, fitness, diet and lifestyle. Hughes earned his Bachelor of Science in kinesiology at the University of Waterloo and his doctoral degree from Western States Chiropractic College in Portland, Ore.

You might not be aware of how much you use your left arm on a daily basis until you begin experiencing pain in that arm and elbow. The most common causes for pain in the left arm and elbow include injury, inflammation, nerve damage, or a heart-related condition. Each of these causes may present with initial symptoms of pain in the left arm and elbow.


You may experience pain in your left arm or elbow following a fall or accident that results in bruising and swelling. Bruising and swelling may begin to appear immediately following a fall or injury and are common causes of pain. Pain due to bruising and swelling from an injury should slowly begin to subside within a week and show improvement on a daily basis (see ref 2, p 1).


Inflammation can cause pain in the left arm and elbow. Pain due to inflammation can be acute or chronic. Acute pain related to inflammation may occur after an excessive repetitive activity such as typing or raking leaves. Chronic inflammatory pain can be caused by various types of arthritis such osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis (see ref 2, p 1).

Nerve Pain

Left arm and elbow pain that is sharp, burning, or stabbing may be due to the compression of a nerve in the neck, chest, or the presence of nerve damage. It may also be accompanied by numbness, tingling, and lack of sensation in the arm.Compression of a nerve can occur due to excessive swelling, an injury, or presence of a tumor. Nerve damage may be due to chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or an autoimmune disorder (see ref. 2, p 1).

Warning of Left Arm Pain

Pain in the left arm that has a sudden onset and is experienced as heaviness, a dull ache, a pressure type sensation, numbness or tingling may be the early signs of a heart attack (see ref 3, p 1). If these symptoms are accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or feeling lightheaded, you should consider seeking immediate medical attention as these may be additional symptoms of a heart attack.

When to Seek Medical Care

If your left arm and elbow pain does not begin to improve in a few days, see your healthcare provider for evaluation and treatment. You should consider seeking immediate medical attention if an injury is accompanied by the inability to straighten your arm, excessive arm swelling, lack of feeling in your arm or hand, or if you arm becomes cold and pale. These symptoms may indicate a serious condition that could result in permanent nerve damage or loss of circulation. You should also seek immediate medical attention if your left arm pain is felt as a heaviness, dull ache, pressure type sensation, numbness or tingling, in addition to chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. These may be warnings signs of a heart attack.

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