About Intermittent Left Arm Pain

Intermittent left arm pain may have many causes. It may be the result of a simple arm injury or may be a precursor to more serious heart issues. Left arm pain should never be ignored. A doctor should be notified immediately if intermittent left arm pain occurs. If the arm pain occurs in tandem with chest pain, head directly to the emergency room.

Medical team with a patient (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


When a patient presents with left arm pain a doctor will ask questions about the duration and severity of the pain. He or she will also ask about any other symptoms that occur along with the arm pain. Diagnostic tests may include an electrocardiogram (EKG) to determine if the heart if functioning normally. A magnetic imaging resonance test (MRI) may be done to check if there are any issues, such as a shoulder injury, that may cause arm pain. The doctor will also check the range of motion of the arm to determine if moving the arm causes the pain.

Text Messaging

Intermittent left arm pain may be due to something as simple as excessive text messaging on a cell phone. Texting may cause arm pain, especially if texting is done while in an awkward position or while leaning forward to see the text screen. Sitting upright while texting will help to prevent intermittent left arm pain due to texting. Also, it is important to take breaks from texting regularly and to stop texting immediately if any arm or other pain develops.

Common Causes of Left Arm Pain

Left arm pain may also be due to tendinitis, a fractured or broken arm, tennis elbow or nerve damage in the arm. Ask the doctor about all possible causes of left arm pain, especially if the pain is severe. Take the time to analyze the pain and work with the doctor to clearly identify its cause. Intermittent left arm pain may be difficult to diagnose. Keeping a log of symptoms, the severity, time of occurrence and date of occurrence will be helpful to the doctor.

Angina and Intermittent Left Arm Pain

Angina may also cause left arm pain. If the heart is getting insufficient blood flow, angina may occur due to lack of oxygen. Angina may cause intermittent left arm pain that may fluctuate in severity. Always let a doctor know if angina pain in the arm starts for the first time or if typical angina pain in the arm increases in severity or duration.

Heart Attack

Significant left arm pain may occur before or during a heart attack. Thus left arm pain is a symptom that must be reported to a doctor and must be closely monitored. If the left arm pain comes on suddenly and is severe or occurs in combination with chest pain, get emergency medical attention. Left arm pain with chest pain may indicate that a heart attack is in progress.

Shoulder Injury

Another cause of left arm pain is a tear of the rotator cuff in the shoulder. With this injury pain sometimes shoots down the arm with even a slight movement. The pain will happen intermittently as the arm or shoulder move. The pain may range from minor to severe.


If the pain is due to several causes, then several treatments may be needed. For pain due to a shoulder injury, surgery and physical therapy may be required. For left arm pain due to heart problems, lifestyle changes to improve health will be required, and medications may be prescribed to help treat angina pain. If heart disease is present, surgery may be required. For arm pain due to texting or injuries, the doctor may prescribe physical therapy and a break from the activity that causes the pain.

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