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Achy Pain in the Arms

author image Shannon Marks
Shannon Marks started her journalism career in 1994. She was a reporter at the "Beachcomber" in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and contributed to "Philadelphia Weekly." Marks also served as a research editor, reporter and contributing writer at lifestyle, travel and entertainment magazines in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Temple University.
Achy Pain in the Arms
Middle-aged man in the gym clutches wrist in pain. Photo Credit: Barry Austin/DigitalVision/Getty Images

A long list of conditions can cause arm pain, from a heart attack to a bug bite, carpal tunnel syndrome to an autoimmune disorder. Some conditions that affect completely different areas of the body can even cause arm pain. If your pain is mild and tolerable, you probably can treat it at home with an over-the-counter pain reliever. If the pain is severe and unmanageable or if you’ve had pain for more than three days, consult your doctor.

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Muscle Strain

Arm pain can be caused by a muscle strain, which can be caused by a spasm or a pulled or tight muscle. Muscle strains are commonly caused by overuse during a physical activity, especially if you just started a new exercise regimen. If you have a muscle strain and something caused your muscles to cramp, it can cause pain and limited range of motion. A serious strain may require medical evaluation and treatment. A muscle strain is different from a muscle contusion, which is caused by blunt force or trauma to the muscle. Symptoms of muscle strain include cramping, soreness and limited ability to move.

Heart Attack

A sudden pain in one or both arms, while probably not serious should also not be taken lightly, especially when combined with other symptoms. Heart disease often has no symptoms, but if you suddenly begin to experience pain in an arm combined with chest pain, it could be a warning sign of a heart attack. Other signs include shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and an abnormal heartbeat. Get medical attention immediately.

Bug Bits and Stings

Intense pain and stiffness in your arm could be from a bug bite. Two spiders in the United States that can cause serious harm with their bite. The black widow and brown recluse, both of which live in warm climates and dark, dry surroundings, can cause a cramping, achy feeling in the area of the bite. The brown scorpion, found in the Southwest, has powerful venom that can cause intense tingling at the site of the sting. If you suspect you've been bitten by either of these spider, get medical attention.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a passageway on the inside of your wrist that protects an important nerve in your hand. This nerve controls tendons and your ability to bend your fingers. Pressure on it can cause numbness and pain in the short term and lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. This syndrome is characterized by radiating pain that can extend from your wrist to your upper arm or shoulder. Carpal tunnel has been linked to highly repetitive work. It affects 1 percent of the general population and 5 percent of the working population who use perform repetitive motions with their hands and wrists on the job.

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