Non-Specific Arm Pain

What Causes Arm Pain?

Arm pain can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'troubling' to 'critical'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose arm pain, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "arm pain" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities (more below):
  • Compartment Syndrome
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
  • Slipped Disc
  • Heart Disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Angina
  • T4 Syndrome

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
tonsils/adenoids out before age 20
African ethnicity
history of heart attack
appendix removed before age 20
very angry/hostile disposition
male pattern hair loss
extreme calorie restriction
discontinued calcium supplementation
hiccups
variable duration morning stiffness
heart attack(s) in father
radiating chest pain
... and more than 30 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of arm pain:
Cause Probability Status
Slipped Disc 99% Confirm
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome 20% Unlikely
Osteomyelitis 17% Unlikely
Heart Disease 2% Ruled out
T4 Syndrome 0% Ruled out
Compartment Syndrome 0% Ruled out
Angina 0% Ruled out
Osteoarthritis 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate problems with limbs, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
Do you suffer from pain in your arms that is hard to pinpoint?
Possible responses:
→ Don't know
→ No
→ Yes, slight
→ Yes, moderate
→ Yes, severe
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate absence of non-specific arm pain, non-specific arm pain or severe non-specific arm pain, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Angina

Arm pain due to angina is explained by the concept of referred pain: the same spinal level that receives nerve signals from the heart simultaneously receives sensation from certain areas of skin, without the ability to discriminate the two.  The arms are typical locations for the referred pain, usually the inner left arm.

Compartment Syndrome

Compartment syndrome usually occurs in the legs, but very occasionally affects the arms.

Coronary Disease / Heart Attack

Arm pain, usually in the left arm, can signal a heart attack or impending heart attack.

Torticollis (Loxia, "Wryneck")

The pain of torticollis may spread to the arms or hands.

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