Signs and symptoms of a pulled muscle in the arm

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Anyone who is involved in strenuous work or exercise can tell a story of a pulled muscle in the arm. Usually, it will start as a sharp spasm, but it can also progress slowly, until you awaken the next morning unable to move the arm.

If you think you have a pulled muscle in your arm, knowing the signs, what their location means, the risks, and the speed of progression will help alleviate the problem.


The common symptoms felt when you pull a muscle in the arm can include pain, tenderness and swelling of the muscle. The inability to move the arm or muscle because of pain and swelling is another sign of a pulled muscle. Another sign is stiffness or an extremely tight feeling in the affected area. Sudden cramping can occur as well. A feeling of paralysis--in which you cannot move the arm, or experience a tingling or numbness--is yet another sign.


Signs or symptoms of a pulled muscle often result from two types of injury to the arm. The first is a sudden injury, such as sprains or sudden impact. The second cause is the overuse or overextension of the muscle; is usually occurs from lifting items that are beyond your capacity, too quickly, or continuously for long periods of time.


The signs and symptoms can vary depending on the muscle pulled. Deltoid muscles are located around the shoulder, and can show signs of pain when you try to move the the upper arm. The biceps are the muscles just below the deltoids, and usually show signs of pain when you extend the arm out straight. The triceps are the muscles opposite the biceps on the underside of the arm. These muscles can show signs of a pull when you bend the arm at the elbow. The brachioradialis muscles make up muscle group in the forearm. Often, these muscles show symptoms when you are trying to lift something, bending the wrist, or experience injury to the elbow or wrist.

Time frame

The pain from a pulled muscle can be almost instantaneous. Depending on how tight the muscle is when injured, you can begin to feel a dull, throbbing pain that builds up over 24 hours, or a sharp pain that can occur suddenly. While the throbbing pain is easier to handle at first, it is also the reason the muscles become immobile for long periods of time. The sharp pains are often caused by cramps and can be easier to handle by message or working the muscle slowly. Cramps often take mere hours to eliminate.


Ignoring the signs of a pulled muscle can cause debilitating effects. Continued use of a pulled muscle can cause permanent damage and partial to complete loss of mobility. Loss of the deltoid muscle can cause inability to lift the arm. Loss of a bicep or tricep can render you unable to lift objects. Loss of the brachioradialis can result in the loss of use of the wrist.