Because your arm is not a part of your digestive system, you may be confused if you experience pain in your arm when eating. The most probable cause of arm pain that develops when eating is gallbladder disease. According to MayoClinic.com, a common symptom of gallbladder disease is pain in your right shoulder that can radiate into your right arm. The pain originates in your upper-right abdomen, near your rib cage and may cause pain in your back and between your shoulders.
Gallbladder disease is mostly the result of gallstone formation in the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a sac located near the liver that stores extra bile until it's needed to digest certain fats. About 90 percent of people with gallstones have no symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Arm or shoulder pain will develop quickly during a gallbladder attack, which is most likely the result of a gallstone trapped in the gallbladder duct. Gallstones vary in size and are typically made of concentrations of cholesterol found in bile. Inflammation of the gallbladder is another less-common cause of gallbladder disease.
Arm Pain and Other Symptoms
Right arm pain is one of the most identifiable symptoms of a gallbladder attack, but may cause other symptoms. Most gallbladder attacks occur after eating high-fat foods because the presence of a lot of fat causes the brain to trigger contractions in the gallbladder to expel bile. Most gallbladder attacks cause steady pain in the right portion of the abdomen that can last for several hours, pain under the right shoulder and pain that develops in the upper portion of your back. The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse recommends calling your doctor immediately if you develop fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, pain lasting more than 5 hours, clay-colored stools or yellowing of the skin.
If you develop sudden, intense pain that causes you to double over, call 911 for emergency medical assistance. In some situations, a gallstone can become lodged in the gallbladder duct, which can cause the gland to become infected. This can lead to further compilations and death if not medically addressed. In this scenario, removal of the gallbladder is the most common treatment.
If you develop arm pain along with chest tightness, shortness of breath and sweating you may be having a heart attack. A heart attack may be confused with gallbladder pain or heartburn. If you experience these symptoms, treat them as a medical emergency and seek assistance immediately.