Upper Arm Muscle Pain: Common Causes and Treatments

It can range from an ache to a debilitating soreness, but upper arm muscle pain is a common problem.  Along with the pain, you may experience swelling and/or bruising of the limb.  An inability to flex or sharp pain while flexing is a likely extension of muscle pain in the upper arm.  Coupled with symptoms in other parts of your body, this type of pain may be caused by a medical condition.  If followed by an injury the cause is likely easier to pinpoint, but may be no easier to treat.

The upper arm boasts four main muscle groups.  Your bicep is on the inside of the arm and is used for lifting or curling weight up to the body.  On the opposite side of the upper arm is the tricep, which is used when pushing out or lifting the arm straight.  Around the shoulders are the deltoids which cap the upper arm and give the shoulder its range of movement.  Holding the arm in place is the rotator cuff or rotators, located in the arm pit.

Injuries happen when muscles are used or stretched beyond their limits.  Each person has a slightly different limit due to the strength of their muscles.  However, even the most muscular person needs to exercise caution to avoid upper arm muscle pain and injury.  Muscle fibers are torn due to injury and such tearing is possible from one aggressive movement or continuous strain beyond limits.

When an injury occurs you may hear a pop or sudden sound during the movement and experience weakness in the arm immediately afterwards.  Stop whatever you are doing and rest your arm.  If a muscle is torn right off of the bone the injury will require surgery.  Immediately resting the muscle may help to prevent that.

Treatment of an injury that is causing upper arm muscle pain involves a few things.  Heat, cold, rest and no sudden movement of the arm can all be used to dampen the pain and heal the muscle injury.  

To prevent such injuries it is important to stretch and warm up your muscles before any exercise.  This will help them to stay flexible and can prevent sudden tearing.  Baseball and weight lifting are two sports where upper arm injuries often occur, so be sure to warm up beforehand.

If your upper arm muscle pain is combined with other medical symptoms and doesn’t follow an injury, you should visit your doctor.  Some diseases that may cause pain in the upper arm are diabetes, tendonitis and peripheral neuropathy.  Be sure to report all symptoms you are experiencing and obtain any necessary tests.

Bicipital Tendonitis happens when a tendon in the shoulder frays or tears.  This causes a flare of pain to be felt in the bicep area.  Treatments can include rest, castings and steroids.  If your pain is intermittent, or comes and goes, it may also be a sign of arthritis.  Visit your doctor for either of those situations.

If pain in your upper left arm radiates or is accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain, visit the emergency room right away.  You may be experiencing a heart attack and need immediate medical attention.

If your upper arm muscle pain is a result of obvious injury, be smart and rest.  Keep the arm at chest level while lying down and don’t use it for anything.  Take over the counter pain medication if needed. 

Be sure to watch your skin when applying cold and hot compresses, as you don’t want to freeze or burn yourself.  Remove the compress, heating pad or ice pack after five to ten minutes and check the site.

When these common remedies don’t bring results in a few days or your pain is accompanied by other worrying symptoms, see your doctor.  Upper arm muscle pain can be looked after in most cases with minimal treatment either at home or with a medical professional.


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