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Doctors' Answers to "Frequently Asked Questions" - Arm Pain


These comments are made for the purpose of discussion and should NOT be used as recommendations for or against therapies or other treatments. An individual patient is always advised to consult their own physician.

Electric shock to arm [posted 1/12/99]
Question: My mother was cooking on a typical electric stove and when she went to turn on one of the burners, a short occurred and she received an electrical shock to her right arm. She experienced pain and discomfort, but was able to move her arm. After going to the doctor 4 days after the incident, he prescribed 750 mg of Relafen 2 times a day. Now she is having more pain and discomfort and difficulties moving the arm. What can my mother do to assist her healing process - massage, physical therapy, medications?

Answer: Electrical burns will usually take a long time to heal and some will continue to experience symptoms for years. I would see a specialist in lightning and electrical injury, but don't expect them to come up with anything that will speed the process.

Shoulder/Arm Pain [posted 1/7/99]
Question: I am 52 year old female who's experienced pain in neck/shoulder and arm for past 2-3 years. I am 5'2", weigh 115 lbs. and in good health. The neck pain seems primarily stress related, but the other seems unrelated to stress. It's difficult for me to write anything with a pen or pencil. I've not been injured (as far as I know) and my doctor found no arthritis. I've had a traveling job for many years and used to carry heavy garment bags, etc. Also, I've been a lap swimmer for many years although I do it less now, due to concerns about overuse. Would you recommend a specialist and if so, what kind?

Answer: You need a diagnosis first. See a neurologist or a second one until you know the source of the pain. Then you can focus on treatment.

Hand Pain [posted 12/08/98]
Question: I have developed a very irritating feeling in my left hand. It feels as if someone rubbed you hard. It is in the top and bottom of the ball area of the thumb. The feeling is kind of hard to describe but it annoys me when I rest it on a chair or desk.

Answer: Could be arthritis of the first joint of the thumb(usually the first joint to get degenerative arthritis in most patients). Or tendonitis. You might try Aleve, Advil etc and if not better see your md.

Pain in Left Arm [posted 8/13/98]
Question: My wife has spells periodically where her left arm goes numb (or aches or is tingly) and chest pain. Along with this is usually gas and diarrhea. This seems to occur a few days before her period, and there seems to be no particular food that causes these spells. She has had many heart and cardiology tests performed and they are all O.K. Could this be a result of endometriosis or a gastro - intestinal problem?

Answer: Anything that stimulates the vagal nerve can produce left arm pain. The esophagus, stomach, heart, gall bladder, pancreas and occasionally parts of the upper small intestine are usually enervated by this nerve. Consequently, any stimulation of these structures can theoretically produce left arm (or left neck or chest) pain. Look to these structures, especially the gall bladder as potential causes of her discomfort if cardiac causes have been eliminated.

Arm pain
Question: For a few weeks now, I have been experiencing pain in my upper arms and bicep region. Pain is felt when the arm is used - like when drying my hair. It is more prominent in my right arm and I am left-hand dominant. I have no other symptoms. I am on no medications. I am a 40 year old woman. I am a bit concerned and wonder if some insidious neuro-muscular disease is starting to manifest. There is no family history of this or any related illnesses are known. Sometimes at work I type a lot, but have been doing so for 20 years and I don't see any relation.

Answer: It would be hard to tell without examining your shoulder, but I suspect you have tendonitis of one of the rotor cuff muscles. The shoulder is peculiar in that inflammation of the tendons occurs with normal use of the joint. This is because elevating the shoulder will press the tendons of the shoulder into the bones of the shoulder. Consequently, any activity that raises the shoulder (like drying the hair) will inflame these tendons. Avoidance of elevating the shoulder (switch arms to brush your teeth, comb your hair, etc.) heat, and nonsteroidal antiinflammatories are generally used.

Tingles/cheeks and arms
Question: I am taking 200m of Zoloft and 2 mg of diazepam daily for anxiety/panic and it works great. I have what I call zingers (not pain) that go down both arms and/or both cheeks when I run. Usually only when I turn my head. I am 45, fit, and have good vitals. This condition comes and goes from day to day. It seems to b e worse when I sleep late or nap on weekends. I've had neuro exam and a mr scan on neck, which show I'm fine. I have no arthritis. On rare occasions, like interval training on the track, I have experienced irregular heart beat associated with "zingers".

Answer: If these really persist, I'd get some EMG's of your nerves from your neck. This will indicate any pathologic condition of the nerves (early peripheral neuropathy etc.) or any nerve root compression at the neck. I doubt that it is the medication, but this will help the diagnostic problem.

Arm Pain
Question: I am taking Diclofenac 750 mg tablet EC. I work in recycling where I use my hands to squeeze soda and milk cartons. I repeat the same motions over and over for 8 to 9 hours, 4 days a week. When I relax my arm along the edge of a chair my arm goes numb, even with the slightest pressure on my arm. It goes numb and it hurts.

Answer: This is probably a repetitive use problem. These syndromes are seen in people who perform the same activity over and over. Carpal tunnel syndrome, ulnar nerve damage, and tendonitis all occur.



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