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Cause of Pain in the Left Arm

Updated February 21, 2017

Pain in the left arm and not the right is considered a classic sign of a heart attack. If this is the cause of the arm pain, the pain may radiate or be perceived as a strong tingling sensation, or it can feel like a muscle cramp. This is probably the most serious diagnosis associated with arm pain.

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Numbness and arm pain is sometimes associated with stroke. The brain is responsible for interpreting pain in the body, and when a person has a stroke, the affected area of the brain can believe a body part is hurt when it isn't.

Neck Problems

When a disk (or several) in the neck is out of alignment, pressure on the nerves that reach into the arms can result and cause numbness and pain. Most often this can be treated with simple chiropractic care, but sometimes, if the problem is severe enough, surgery is required.

Tennis Elbow and Carpal Tunnel

There are several major nerves in the arm that can become inflamed. Two conditions associated with this inflammation are tennis elbow and carpal tunnel syndrome. These conditions sometimes can be misdiagnosed because the pain is not necessarily felt only in the elbow or wrist. It can be felt throughout the arm because of the size and function of the nerves.


A lesser known cause of arm pain and tingling is stress. Stress releases chemicals related to the fight or flight response. The heart will respond to these chemicals and usually begins to pump faster to accommodate the perceived need to take physical action. If a person does not take such physical action, then the heart is working harder than necessary and pumps more even though breaths may not increase and an equivalent amount of oxygen may not be taken in. The result can be chest pain that can radiate to the left arm.

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About the Author

Wanda Thibodeaux

Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.

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