Pain in the left arm without chest pain can result from various issues, including injuries and nerve damage. Symptoms can also include arm throbbing, swelling, or numbness. Depending on the cause, the pain may feel like a dull ache or a sharp, stabbing pain.
Pinpointing the type of pain can help a doctor identify the cause.
In some cases, a person might also experience numbness or weakness in the arm, and the arm may be difficult to lift or move.
Below, we explore some health issues that can lead to left arm pain and accompanying symptoms — but no chest pain. Because the issue can cause concern, we also describe when professional medical intervention is necessary.
The causes of left arm pain without chest pain can range from mild to severe. Anyone who suspects that they are having a stroke or heart attack should receive emergency care.
- numbness or weakness in the limbs or face, usually on one side of the body
- difficulty balancing or walking
- dizziness and confusion
- difficulty speaking
- a severe headache
Some common symptoms of a heart attack include left arm pain with chest tightness or pain. However, heart attacks can present in a range of ways, and females, for example, may experience different or additional symptoms.
It is also important to receive urgent treatment for a bone fracture, which tends to follow trauma, which may involve a car accident or sports injury, for example.
Otherwise, seek medical attention for left arm pain that persists for several weeks or gets worse over time.
Below, learn what may be causing left arm pain without chest pain — and other symptoms to look out for.
Pain in the left arm may stem from a bone fracture or muscle injury. The pain may be radiating from an injury elsewhere, such as on the wrist or hand.
Trauma, such as from a fall, accident, or contact sport, is a common cause of these injuries.
According to the American Society for Surgery of the Hand, this type of injury often occurs with:
- numbness or weakness in the arm
- difficulty moving the arm
The right treatment depends on the severity of the injury. For a broken bone, a person might receive an X-ray and casting in a clinic or hospital.
For the pain, a doctor will recommend or prescribe medication and home care strategies. They may also provide supportive gear to promote healing, such as a brace.
Peripheral neuropathy is an umbrella term for conditions that damage nerves of the peripheral nervous system. It can affect those running down the arms, causing pain and numbness in the area.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is one type of peripheral neuropathy. It causes wrist pain and usually results from continual computer use.
The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy vary, depending on the affected area, but they can include:
- tingling and numbness
- increased or decreased sensitivity
- difficulty with coordination
- burning or stabbing pain
- muscle weakness
- twitching and cramping
Several medications — including some pain relievers, antidepressants, and anti-inflammatories — can ease or resolve the symptoms.
Cervical stenosis involves a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck, which places pressure on nerves and can cause pain and weakness in the arms.
When it affects the arms, the pain may seem to shoot up and down. Doctors recommend medications and physical therapy to help.
In more advanced stages, cervical stenosis can cause other issues, including bladder or bowel dysfunction. At this point, surgery may be necessary to reduce pressure on the nerves.
Poor circulation refers to a disruption of blood flow. Pressure on the arms, for example, can restrict blood flow to the area and cause numbness, tingling, or pain.
In this case, the symptoms of poor circulation may resolve quickly. For example, sleeping in an awkward position can cause temporary circulation problems.
In other cases, poor circulation results from a heart problem, such as heart disease.
A treatment plan for a heart condition usually involves changing the diet, being more physically active, and quitting smoking, as well as taking prescribed medications, such as beta-blockers or ACE inhibitors.
Hemiplegic migraine headache
A hemiplegic migraine headache is a rare issue that causes symptoms on one side of the body, such as a severe, throbbing headache on one side of the head.
People with hemiplegic migraine headaches may also experience:
- weakness in the face or limbs on one side
- problems seeing or seeing clearly
- numbness and tingling in one arm or leg
- difficulty speaking
- coordination problems
- nausea and vomiting
- sensitivity to light
A range of treatments can help, including antiseizure medications and beta-blockers.
A doctor will ask about the symptoms, including the type of pain and when it began. They may also inspect the area for swelling, bruising, or other color changes.
They may then need further tests, such as medical imaging, to check for damage to the bones or nerves.
If a doctor suspects a heart issue, they may request an electrocardiogram to monitor the heart’s activity.
The following tips can help the area heal:
- taking over-the-counter pain relief medication
- resting the arm for a few days
- keeping the arm elevated
- applying cold or heat packs
- following a doctor’s instructions carefully about when and how to use supportive gear
Also, if migraine is responsible for the pain, lying down in a dark room can help.
Left arm pain — without chest pain — may be a dull ache or a shooting pain, and it may accompany other symptoms, such as headaches and muscle weakness.
If the pain is severe or persistent, see a doctor. Seek emergency care if the pain results from trauma or if there are any symptoms of a stroke or heart attack.