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Weakness in Both Upper Arms Symptom, Causes & Questions

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Last updated August 27, 2020

Upper arm weakness questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your weakness.

Muscle weakness in your arms can have a number of causes, ranging from common conditions like a pinched nerve in the neck, to rarer conditions such as brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue). Read more below to learn what may be making your arms feel weak.

Upper arm weakness questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your weakness.

Upper arm weakness symptom checker

5 causes of weakness in both upper arms

This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Pinched nerve in the neck

A pinched nerve in the neck is also called cervical radiculopathy. It means that a nerve in the neck, at a point where it branches off from the spinal cord, is being compressed by the surrounding bones, muscles, or other tissues.

It can be caused by a traumatic injury, such as from sports or an automobile accident, especially if the injury results in a herniated disk. It may also arise from the normal wear and tear of aging.

Symptoms include sharp, burning pain with numbness and tingling from the neck to the shoulder, as well as weakness and numbness into the arm and hand.

Diagnosis is made through patient history, physical examination, and simple neurological tests to check the reflexes. Imaging such as x-ray, CT scan, or MRI may be done, as well as electromyography to measure nerve impulses in the muscles.

A pinched nerve in the neck often improves with simply a few days or weeks of rest. Physical therapy, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and steroid injections into the spine can all be very helpful.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: pain in one shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, pain that radiates down arm, pain in the back of the neck, severe shoulder pain

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Upper arm weakness questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your weakness.

Upper arm weakness symptom checker

Brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue)

The brachial plexus is a web of nerves between the neck and shoulder, connecting the spinal cord nerves to the arm. There is one web on each side of the neck. Any injury that forces the shoulder to stretch down, and the neck to stretch up and away, can damage these nerves and cause brachial plexopathy.

Sports injuries and car accidents are often involved. Inflammation, tumors, and radiation treatment can also damage the brachial plexus.

Milder symptoms include numbness and weakness in the arm, with a shocklike stinging or burning sensation. A more severe injury can cause paralysis and loss of feeling in the arm, with pain in some parts of the arm, hand, and shoulder.

These symptoms should be seen by a medical provider since permanent damage can result if the injuries are not treated.

Diagnosis is made through electromyography (EMG) testing, CT scan, MRI, and sometimes angiogram.

Treatment usually involves rest and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary to remove scar tissue or repair the damaged nerves.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain

Symptoms that never occur with brachial plexopathy (shoulder nerve issue): pain in the front middle part of the neck

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Myasthenia gravis (over 50)

Myasthenia Gravis is an autoimmune disease, where the immune system attacks the connection between nerves and muscles.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: weakness, general weakness, trouble swallowing, voice change, double vision

Urgency: In-person visit

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (als)

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is also called ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease named after the Hall of Fame baseball player whose career ended when he developed ALS. It is a degenerative disease that destroys nerve cells, which eventually ..

Guillain-barre syndrome

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a condition in which the body's immune system damages parts of neurons. Guillain-Barre syndrome usually occurs after an infection or other triggering event. It is believed that the event leads to an abnormal immune response in which the body...

Upper arm weakness questionnaire

Use our free symptom checker to find out what's causing your weakness.

Upper arm weakness symptom checker

Questions your doctor may ask about weakness in both upper arms

  • Do you have any idea what may have caused your upper arm pain?
  • Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Did you just suffer from a high impact injury (e.g., a fall, collision, accident or sports trauma)?
  • Did you recently (within the last 2 weeks) get a vaccination?

Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.

Weakness in both upper arms symptom checker statistics

People who have experienced weakness in both upper arms have also experienced:

  • 6% Fatigue
  • 4% Shoulder Pain
  • 4% Pain In The Upper Arm

People who have experienced weakness in both upper arms were most often matched with:

  • 45% Myasthenia Gravis (Over 50)
  • 27% Pinched Nerve In The Neck
  • 27% Brachial Plexopathy (Shoulder Nerve Issue)

People who have experienced weakness in both upper arms had symptoms persist for:

  • 39% Over a month
  • 22% Less than a day
  • 18% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from Buoy Assistant.

Hear what 2 others are saying
Constant pain in upper arms and hip and neck areaPosted September 29, 2021 by J.
I had skin cancer and went through 20 rounds of radiation on my nose. The good news is that the cancer is gone. But since then I have lots of soreness and tenderness in my upper arms, all sides, and my hips on both sides where they meet my thighs are also very very sore. On occasions, my neck on both sides is very tight and sore and left side of my jaw sometimes hurts when I eat. This has been going on for a couple months now. Noticed it big time after my radiation treatments were done. Does anybody have any similar conditions?
Loss of strength in right armPosted June 2, 2021 by t.
I use my right arm for everything and around 2 years ago it became weaker than my left arm, out of nowhere. My elbow and wrist have a strange feeling when I tense my right arm. It's nothing serious, it still functions and is a bit strong. The shoulder (right) feels strange, for example. It's almost like it's loose but not dislocated. It feels like something is missing. Or over time my left arm (which I use less) has become stronger than my right arm. P.S. It's still weaker.

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