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Causes of pain in the upper arm

Updated February 21, 2017

Upper arm pain can be caused by a number of things. Some of the causes are simple and easily treated, but others are more serious. Most causes of upper arm pain, such as that caused by fractures and muscle strains, are directly related to the arm, but upper arm pain can have indirect causes, such as heartburn.

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Fractures cause upper arm pain and require upper arm pain treatment. They are caused by trauma to the upper arm that breaks or cracks the bone. Other symptoms that accompany the pain of fractures are local swelling and local bleeding if the skin is broken. If nerves were damaged by the fracture, numbness and paralysis can also occur, requiring upper arm pain treatment.


Tendinitis can cause upper arm pain. It occurs when tendons, the bands of tissue that connect bone to muscle, become inflamed. The inflammation is usually due to injury or overuse. Pain is the most common symptom of tendinitis, but other symptoms, such as warmth of the joint and swelling of the joint, may also be present and cause sufferers to seek upper arm pain relief.

Muscle Strain

A muscle strain can also cause upper arm pain. This occurs when a muscle is overstretched and the muscle tissue is torn. The degree of pain and other symptoms depends on the degree of damage, but most people will seek upper arm pain relief for a strain. Other symptoms of a muscle strain are tenderness, stiffness and swelling of the affected muscle.


Heartburn can cause upper arm pain. It is caused by stomach acid backing up into the oesophagus. Sometimes the upper arm pain associated with heartburn can be quite severe and demand upper arm pain treatment. Other symptoms of heartburn include burning pain that occurs in the chest and pain that is worse when bending or lying.

Brachial Plexus Injury

A brachial plexus injury can cause upper arm pain. This bundle of nerves where the neck joins the shoulder transmits nerve signals from the spine to the hand, arm and shoulder. Brachial plexus injuries can occur during contact sports, auto accidents and falls. Sometimes a baby may be injured during a difficult birth. Brachial plexus damage is also considered a complication of more than a dozen underlying diseases. Other symptoms of a brachial plexus injury include loss of muscle control in the hand, wrist or arm, arm numbness and paralysis in the arm, and upper arm pain relief may be sought.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy can cause upper arm pain. This condition refers to damage to the peripheral nervous system nerves. The peripheral nervous system connects the central nervous system to the organs and limbs. Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include muscle weakness, numbness and tingling.

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About the Author

Rose Kitchen is a freelance medical writer pursuing a bachelor's degree in sociology and education. She has a nursing background and is going back to nursing school in September 2011 for her R.N. Kitchen holds a certificate in anatomy and physiology and English and is pursuing certificates in natural and alternative medicine, fitness and nutrition and sports nutrition.

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