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Learn about your inability to move arm, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your inability to move arm from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

Inability to Move Arm Checker

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Your Inability to Move Arm May Also be Known as:
Cannot move arm
Trouble moving arm
Unable to move arm

Top 10 Inability to Move Arm Causes

  1. 1.Rotator Cuff Tendonitis

    Impingement syndrome is a common shoulder condition seen in aging adults. The tendons of rotator cuff muscles, whose action is to rotate the arm such such as during a tennis swing, pass in a narrow space between two bones in the shoulder. When the space becomes too narrow, which can happen as a result of an overuse injury, pain may develop as the tendons rub against the bones.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Treatments for impingement syndrome involve rest, over-the-counter pain medication, steroid injections, physical therapy, and surgery in rare, serious cases.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, shoulder pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with rotator cuff tendonitis:
    pain in one shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Biceps Tendonitis

    The biceps is the muscle in the front of the upper arm. Its main action is to flex the arm. The beginning of the muscle is a tendon that passes in front of the shoulder. Problems with the tendon can arise due to impingement (where the tendon gets compressed by surrounding structures) or inflammation due to overuse of the shoulder. People with this condition experience a deep, throbbing ache in the front of the shoulder.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate care with a physical therapist. First-line treatments for this condition involve rest from activity, physical therapy, and over-the-counter pain medication.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night
    Symptoms that always occur with biceps tendonitis:
    pain in the front of the shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Biceps Tendon Rupture

    The biceps is the muscle in the front of the upper arm. Its main action is to flex the arm. The biceps muscle collects in a tendon that inserts into the radius (one of the bones of the forearm). Sometimes, if lifting something heavy or rapidly putting weight on the arm, the biceps tendon may pull away from the bone. Biceps tendon ruptures are classified as either partial or complete ruptures, depending on if the tendon pulled away only somewhat, or completely.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). The treatment for biceps tendon rupture is surgery.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one shoulder, pain in the front of the shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night
    Symptoms that always occur with biceps tendon rupture:
    pain in the front of the shoulder, pain in one shoulder
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway filled with ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually, and as they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

    Early diagnosis and treatment are important to prevent permanent nerve damage. Your doctor will diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome with a physical exam and special nerve tests. Treatment includes resting your hand, splints, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines. If symptoms do not improve with these less invasive treatments, your physician may recommend surgery.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, hand weakness, wrist pain, pain in one hand, weakness in one hand
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis of the Shoulder)

    Adhesive Capsulitis or "Frozen shoulder" is when the shoulder is painful and loses motion because of inflammation.

    You should go see your primary care doctor, who can diagnose your shoulder pain with a physical exam (x-rays aren't necessary). Treatment is pain management (NSAIDs), physical therapy, and injected corticosteroids to reduce inflammation in the shoulder.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, stiff shoulder, dull, achy shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis of the shoulder):
    stiff shoulder, spontaneous shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

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  6. 6.Brachial Plexopathy

    The brachial plexus is a complex nerve network located in the upper chest deep to the collar bone, which supplies the shoulder, arm, forearm, and hand. Damage to the brachial plexus is usually due to mechanical injury or trauma, and can interfere with normal nerve function causing numbness, pain, and/or weakness.

    You should visit your primary care physician to discuss these symptoms. It is likely the doctor will perform a thorough physical exam, and in many cases refer you to a specialist, physical therapist, or both. A professional evaluation is very important, as surgical treatment might be required for a brachial plexus nerve injury.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one arm, shoulder pain that shoots to the arm, arm weakness, numbness in one arm, shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Non - Specific Shoulder Pain

    The shoulder is made up of many ligaments and several bones. Shoulder pain is often not identifiable because of how complicated a joint it is.

    You can take care of your shoulder pain with rest, ice (for 10-20 minutes at a time), and over-the-counter pain medications.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    shoulder pain
    Symptoms that always occur with non-specific shoulder pain:
    shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  8. 8.Pinched Nerve in the Neck

    With age, disks separating the cervical vertebrae (which are the bones of your spine in your neck) lose height as well as lose water content, becoming stiffer. The vertebrae move closer together, and nerves that exit between these bones may be pinched, causing pain to travel down the nerve as it passes through the arm. The pain is usually sharp, and some people report a "pins and needles" sensation or even complete numbness.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will coordinate your care with a muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Cervical radiculopathy is treated with pain medication, soft neck collars, and physical therapy.

    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
    Symptoms that always occur with pinched nerve in the neck:
    pain that radiates down arm
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Shoulder Bruise

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the shoulder are common, given how exposed this area of the body is.

    You can treat this at home with R.I.C.E - rest (exercise as tolerated), ice (10-20 minutes at a time), compression (this is pretty optional), and elevation (difficult for this part of the body).

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    constant shoulder pain, pain in one shoulder, shoulder injury, shoulder pain from an injury, swelling of one shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with shoulder bruise:
    shoulder pain from an injury, shoulder injury, constant shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  10. 10.Shoulder Arthritis

    Arthritis is inflammation of one or more of the joints. Pain, swelling, and stiffness are the primary symptoms of arthritis. Any joint in the body may be affected by the disease, including the shoulder joint.

    You should visit your primary care physician who will likely coordinate care with an muscle and bone specialist (orthopedic surgeon). Treatment for arthritis may involve pain killers to ease the pain, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections into the shoulder, and surgery in rare, more severe, cases.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, shoulder pain that gets worse at night, difficulty moving the shoulder, swollen shoulder
    Symptoms that always occur with shoulder arthritis:
    spontaneous shoulder pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Inability to Move Arm

  • Q.About your [shoulder], do you notice any of the following?
  • Q.How long has your shoulder pain been going on?
  • Q.How severe is your shoulder pain?
  • Q.How would you explain the cause of your shoulder pain?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, check our inability to move arm symptom checker.

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Inability to Move Arm Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced inability to move arm have also experienced:

    • 28% Pain in One Shoulder
    • 6% Pain in One Arm
    • 5% Shoulder Pain
  • People who have experienced inability to move arm were most often matched with:

    • 33% Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
    • 12% Biceps Tendonitis
    • 12% Biceps Tendon Rupture
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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