Arm Pain: An Introduction

Arm pain is a complex area which defies simple explanations. Only a trained professional can help you arrive at an accurate diagnosis and an effective treatment plan.

Arm pain is comprised of a number or different diagnostic groups. It may be due to problems intrinsic to the arm such as a rotator cuff tear or may be the result of pathology involving the nerves that innervate the arm. This latter group can be subdivided into conditions involving the spinal cord, the spinal roots, the brachial plexus or the peripheral nerves and in the case of left arm pain, can even be a sign of coronary artery disease and impending heart attack.

Although electrical, burning or lancinating pain often indicate that the pain is neurogenic, it can be difficult or impossible to differentiate between these disease states on the basis of the location and the character of the arm pain alone. Often it will be other elements of the history or certain physical findings, which help us to delineate the ultimate cause of the pain. Is there a history of trauma either to the arm or to the neck? Is there a history of cancer, radiation or chemotherapy? Is there an area of localized swelling, redness or tenderness? All of these factors and more need to be considered before a presumptive diagnosis can be made. Blood tests, X Rays, CAT Scans, MRI’s and electro-diagnostic testing may be necessary to confirm or refute a diagnosis or to localize the site of the problem.

As with other types of chronic pain making a precise and accurate diagnosis is critical to developing an effective treatment plan. The treatment options for arm pain may include anti-inflammatory agents, physical therapy, nerve blocks, joint injections, neurosurgery or orthopedic surgery. We at Schlesinger Pain Centers pride ourselves on being able to explain the options and help you make your best decision.

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