Symptoms A-Z

Upper Arm Pain Symptoms, Causes & Common Questions

Understand your upper arm pain symptoms, including 8 causes & common questions.

Upper Arm Pain Symptom Checker

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8 Possible Upper Arm Pain Causes

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced upper arm pain. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

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

Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm

Repetitive strain injury of the upper arm is caused by consistent repetitive use.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: upper arm pain from overuse, upper arm weakness, upper arm numbness

Symptoms that always occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm: upper arm pain from overuse

Symptoms that never occur with repetitive strain injury of the upper arm: upper arm injury, severe upper arm pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Bruised tricep

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 tricep are common, often due to minor injury.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: constant upper arm pain, tricep injury, pain in one tricep, swelling of one arm, upper arm bruise

Symptoms that always occur with bruised tricep: tricep injury, constant upper arm pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Bicep 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 bicep are common due to minor injuries.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: constant upper arm pain, recent bicep injury, pain in one bicep, swelling of one arm, upper arm bruise

Symptoms that always occur with bicep bruise: recent bicep injury, constant upper arm pain

Urgency: Self-treatment

Upper Arm Pain Symptom Checker

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Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layers of the skin. It can appear anywhere on the body but is most common on the feet, lower legs, and face.

The condition can develop if Staphylococcus bacteria enter broken skin through a cut, scrape, or existing skin infection such as impetigo or eczema.

Most susceptible are those with a weakened immune system, as from corticosteroids or chemotherapy, or with impaired circulation from diabetes or any vascular disease.

Symptoms arise somewhat gradually and include sore, reddened skin.

If not treated, the infection can become severe, form pus, and destroy the tissue around it. In rare cases, the infection can cause blood poisoning or meningitis.

Symptom of severe pain, fever, cold sweats, and fast heartbeat should be seen immediately by a medical provider.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination.

Treatment consists of antibiotics, keeping the wound clean, and sometimes surgery to remove any dead tissue. Cellulitis often recurs, so it is important to treat any underlying conditions and improve the immune system with rest and good nutrition.

Rarity: Uncommon

Top Symptoms: fever, chills, facial redness, swollen face, face pain

Symptoms that always occur with cellulitis: facial redness, area of skin redness

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Complex regional pain syndrome (crps)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is also called reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD.) It is a type of chronic pain that results in an unexplained, and unexpected, level of discomfort.

The cause is not entirely known. CRPS most often appears after a severe, traumatic injury to an arm or leg, but may also arise after surgery, illness, or a less serious injury. It may be due to a problem with the nervous system's response to inflammation from the injuries or illnesses.

Symptoms include an area of the arms or legs that is throbbing, burning, swollen, and overly sensitive; may appear cold, sweaty, white, mottled, blue or shiny; and may display weakness and atrophy (muscle loss.) The pain may be exacerbated by emotional distress.

It is important to see a medical provider for these symptoms. The sooner treatment can begin, the better the results.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination. Nerve studies and imaging may also be done.

Treatment involves some combination of neuropathic pain relievers, antidepressants, corticosteroids, and various physical therapies.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: pain in one arm, pain in one leg, pain in one foot, tremor, fatigue

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Upper arm bone infection (osteomyelitis)

Osteomyelitis of the upper arm is a bacterial or fungal infection of the bone, typically caused by Staph Aureus (40-50% of the time). It is difficult to diagnose as the infection can come from a break in the skin at the area or anywhere else in the body that spreads by blood.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: moderate fever, constant upper arm pain, spontaneous upper arm pain, warm red upper arm swelling, painful surgical site

Symptoms that always occur with upper arm bone infection (osteomyelitis): constant upper arm pain, spontaneous upper arm pain

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Compartment syndrome

Acute compartment syndrome describes the damage done to certain muscle groups of the arms or legs after a traumatic injury.

All of the long muscles are bundled into sections – "compartments" – by the white sheets of strong, tough connective tissue called fascia. If something interferes with circulation so that blood flow is trapped within the compartment, pressure rises because the fascia cannot stretch. This causes serious damage to the muscles and other tissues within the compartment.

Acute compartment syndrome is caused by a broken bone; a crush injury; burns, due to scarred and tightened skin; and bandages or casts applied before an injury has stopped swelling.

Symptoms can rapidly intensify. They include severe pain and tightness in the muscle; tingling or burning sensation; and sometimes numbness and weakness.

Acute compartment syndrome is a medical emergency which can result in loss of the limb. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history and physical examination.

Treatment involves hospitalization for emergency surgery and, in some cases, skin graft.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: arm numbness, hand numbness, foot numbness, pain in one leg, thigh numbness

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Upper Arm Pain

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Did you recently experience an injury to the upper arm area?
  • Have any of your muscles gotten much smaller (wasted away)?
  • Does your pain continue into the night?
  • Do you have any idea what may have caused your upper arm pain?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your upper arm pain

Upper Arm Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced upper arm pain have also experienced:

  • 20% Pain In One Arm
  • 11% Pain In One Shoulder
  • 8% Pain In One Forearm

People who have experienced upper arm pain were most often matched with:

  • 60% Brachial Plexopathy (Shoulder Nerve Issue)
  • 20% Repetitive Strain Injury Of The Upper Arm
  • 20% Bruised Tricep

People who have experienced upper arm pain had symptoms persist for:

  • 37% Over a month
  • 22% Less than a week
  • 20% Less than a day

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Upper Arm Pain Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your upper arm pain

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.