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Sudden Left Arm Pain

Smita Pandit May 4, 2019
The contributing factors for pain in the left arm could range from a medical condition of a serious nature such as a heart attack to conditions caused by trauma or inflammation. This write-up provides information on the common causes of sudden left arm pain.
While physical trauma or strained muscles in the left arm is most likely to cause a sudden pain in left arm, sudden pain in this arm might be a symptom of a heart problem. Cardiovascular disease is one of the common causes of left shoulder and arm pain. Other medical conditions, especially those associated with joints, could also be contributing factors.

Reasons Behind Sudden Onset of Left Arm Pain

Pain in the left shoulder and arm could be indicative of various medical conditions. Here are some conditions that might cause sharp pain in one's left arm.

Heart Conditions

Is a sudden left arm pain a symptom of a heart attack? This question pops in the mind of anyone affected by a sudden sharp pain in the left arm. Sudden onset of squeezing chest pain, along with left arm pain could be a sign of heart problems. It is through oxygenated blood that the tissues and organs of human body get their supply of nutrients and oxygen.
A heart attack occurs when coronary arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart get blocked. When a part of the heart muscle doesn't receive sufficient amounts of oxygenated blood, one experiences pain in the chest. While the pain originates in the chest, it can also radiate to other parts such as arm, shoulder, or neck. 
The pain in left arm and shoulder could even be a referred pain. A majority of people complain of experiencing left arm pain during a heart attack.

Blood Circulation

One might experience pain and weakness in the left arm due to poor blood circulation. This could happen in case of side sleepers who sleep on their left side, might experience left arm numbness and tingling. Staying in one position can affect the blood circulation and reduced supply of oxygen rich blood can cause numbness in that particular area.


Accidental falls or injuries that affect the left arm or shoulder are also most likely to cause a sharp pain in left arm. At times, one may develop shoulder pain due to the overuse of muscles in the shoulder joint complex. Tendinitis in the left arm (inflammation of the tendons in the left arm) could also give rise to left arm pain.
Sports persons who use the left hand as their dominant hand are most likely to get affected by torn ligaments in the left arm. At times, bursae (small, fluid-filled jelly-like sacs) that prevent bones, tendons, and muscles from rubbing against each other, might also get inflamed. This condition is referred to as bursitis. 
When the sacs located around the left shoulder or arm get inflamed, one might experience a sudden left arm pain.

Joint Disorders

Certain degenerative joint diseases also emerge as one of the common causes of pain in the left arm. Osteoarthritis, which is a condition associated with the wear and tear of cartilage, is one of the common causes of joint pain and stiffness in the elderly. Osteoporosis, on the other hand, causes the bones to weaken.
As a result, a small injury can also cause severe damage to the bones. These conditions also make one more prone to developing osteophytes or bone spurs. These are bony projections that develop at places where bones meet the ligaments or tendons.
These bony outgrowths often press against the surrounding tissues or nerves and give rise to pain. Formation of a bone spur in the shoulder or left arm could be responsible for causing pain in the shoulder or left arm.
While physical trauma is one of the common contributing factors for left arm pain, if this sudden arm pain is also accompanied by chest pain, you must seek medical help. A thorough medical examination can help doctors ascertain the source of pain. As is the case with all medical conditions, a timely diagnosis and treatment will ensure a speedy recovery.
Disclaimer: The information provided here is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.