11 Possible Causes of Pain in the Right Arm

Blows, falls and repetitive movements are common causes of pain in the right arm. However, pain at this level could be a sign of a heart attack.
11 Possible Causes of Pain in the Right Arm
Leidy Mora Molina

Reviewed and approved by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 23 November, 2023

Pain in the right arm often leads to great discomfort during daily activities. This type of pain is usually the result of inflammatory processes due to blows, falls, or repetitive movements of the joints. However, it could also correspond to cardiovascular or neurological problems. We’ll tell you 11 possible causes of pain in the right arm here.

Pain in the right arm can be generalized or refer anywhere from the shoulder to the hand. In this sense, the discomfort can be the result of the affection or damage to the muscles, bones, tendons, joints, nerves, blood vessels, or skin of the arm. Occasionally, it could also be the sign of a heart attack.

Acute cases usually manifest with intense discomfort for a couple of days, making it difficult to move the limb properly. Chronic cases are those that persist for more than three months.

11 possible causes of pain in the right arm

1. Overexertion

The excessive, continuous, and repetitive use of the upper extremities is a frequent cause of pain. This situation is common in athletes who practice strength sports and in people who perform work with heavy loads or repetitive movements, such as musicians or machine operators.

Studies affirm that constant effort conditions damage and inflammation of the muscles and joints of the shoulder and arm. In this sense, people may report pain in the right and left arm, as well as fatigue and muscle weakness.

In most cases, the discomfort subsides after several days of rest. Likewise, professionals may indicate the use of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs in acute cases, as well as physiotherapy for people with chronic pain.

2. Tendinitis

Tendinitis is an inflammatory and irritating process of the tendons, which are bands of tissue responsible for joining the muscles to the bones. This condition is common at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist due to overloading or improper movements.

It presents with a dull pain in the right arm that worsens with movement or when sleeping. Similarly, muscle fatigue is common, as well as tenderness to palpation and swelling of the affected area.

The main treatment is resting the limb along with physiotherapy sessions. The application of cold compresses and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may be helpful.

Síndrome del hombro doloroso.
Painful shoulder syndrome is a relatively common condition that responds to bursitis or tendonitis in the joint.

3. Bursitis

Bursitis is an inflammatory condition of the bursae, a group of small synovial sacs that provide cushioning for muscles, tendons, and joints. It’s a condition that usually causes pain and discomfort in the shoulder and elbow of the right arm.

It usually occurs after overextending a joint or performing repetitive movements for long periods of time. Similarly, injuries, as well as arthritis and gout, are also common causes.

Treatment is based on the administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and the application of cold compresses for faster relief of symptoms. In some cases, steroids are necessary.

4. Epicondylitis and epitrochleitis

Epicondylitis and epitrochleitis are two common painful conditions at the elbow. Furthermore, epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, is an inflammatory process that affects the tendons of the extensor muscles of the hand and wrist that insert into the epicondyle, located on the outer aspect of the elbow. It’s common in tennis and squash players.

Research states that epicondylitis causes a shooting pain in the epicondyle area that may radiate to the outer arm or forearm. In addition, it ‘s common for upward extension of the wrist and twisting movements of the forearm, as well as palpation of the area, to worsen the discomfort.

On the other hand, epicondylitis, or golfer’s elbow is a frequent disorder in people who perform repetitive flexion movements of the elbow. In this case, there’s often tendinitis of the hand and wrist muscles that insert into the epitrochlea, a protuberance located on the inner aspect of the elbow.

In the case of epitrochleitis, the person presents greater pain when flexing the wrist and when palpating the inflamed area. Treatment includes the use of analgesics to relieve pain and strapping to stabilize the joint.

5. A fracture

Fractures in the right arm can occur at the level of the humerus, radius, and ulna, as well as in the small bones of the hand. In most cases, loss of bone continuity occurs from direct blows, traffic accidents, and falls. Similarly, osteoporosis is a predisposing factor in older people.

Usually, the person usually manifests severe pain in the right arm, swelling, redness, bone deformity, and inability to move the arm. In addition, in open fractures, there may be heavy bleeding.

6. Dislocation

A dislocation is the abnormal displacement and loss of alignment of a joint. Studies estimate that the shoulder joint is the most easily dislocated joint and accounts for 90% of all dislocations. The most common causes include contact sports injuries, falls with an outstretched hand, and traffic accidents.

The dislocated shoulder may be out of place, projected forward, outward, or backward. It’s also common for the joint to be swollen, causing severe pain and inability to perform any movement. Some people tend to keep the arm close to the chest and place the forearm on the other hand in an antalgic position.

The elbow is the second joint that suffers more dislocations after the shoulder. The characteristic symptoms are severe pain in the right or left arm, deformity, and loss of joint mobility.

7. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. It’s the result of wear and tear of the cartilage that forms the joints, as a result of aging. It can affect any joint, but is most common in the shoulder and hands.

Symptoms include the following:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Crunching when moving the limb
  • Tenderness
  • Swelling of the area

Injuries, obesity, and menopause are triggering factors.

8. Heart attacks and pain in the right arm

Myocardial infarction is an emergency condition that occurs upon partial or total obstruction of blood flow to the heart. The characteristic symptom is oppressive chest pain radiating to the left arm. However, in some women, pain in the right arm may also be a clear sign of infarction, according to studies.

Patients may also experience shortness of breath, profuse sweating, weakness, dizziness, vomiting, and palpitations. The main risk factors for heart attack include obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, and aging.

When a heart attack is suspected, it’s vital to go immediately to a hospital emergency room. Health professionals are the only ones trained to diagnose this condition and provide the most appropriate treatment to relieve symptoms.

9. Carpal tunnel syndrome

This is a neurological disorder resulting from compression of the median nerve extending from the arm to the hand, inside the carpal tunnel. The disease is common in people who perform repetitive movements with the wrist, such as secretaries, writers, seamstresses, and musicians.

The nerve compression causes shooting pain in the hand and wrist that extends down the right arm. In addition, there is usually numbness and tingling, as well as muscle weakness and difficulty holding objects.

The therapeutic plan includes the use of splints when sleeping and the application of hot or cold compresses to the area. Similarly, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroid injection, and administration of neuromodulatory drugs may be necessary.

Síndrome del túnel carpiano en oficinista.
Those who work with computers much of the day are exposed to carpal tunnel syndrome from keyboard and mouse use.

10. Pain in the right arm could be due to a brachial plexus injury

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves located at the cervical level that is responsible for sending nerve impulses from the spinal cord to shoulders, arms, and hands. Compression, stretching, and injuries at this level cause different neurological symptoms in the right arm.

In mild injuries, the sensation of electric shocks in the arm is common, as well as numbness and weakness of the limb. In severe cases, numbness, paralysis, and severe pain in the right arm occur.

The most common causes include trauma from contact sports, falls, and traffic accidents. Treatment depends on the severity of the injury and includes physical therapy, splinting, and restorative surgery.

11. A herniated disc

A herniated disc is the result of protrusion or displacement of the intervertebral discs of the spine. Cervical herniation can compress nerve roots and cause severe arm pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness.

Conservative treatment is based on lifestyle modifications to avoid pain and the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, steroids, muscle relaxants, and opioids. The physician may also recommend physical therapy and surgery to repair the defect.

Pain in the right arm is a symptom that something is wrong

Right arm pain is usually the result of a variety of osteoarticular, vascular, and neurological conditions. In most cases, shoulder and elbow discomfort is due to inflammatory processes that disappear after a couple of days.

However, severe pain that limits daily activities could indicate a heart attack or brachial plexus injury. Do not hesitate to see a doctor in the case of pain in your right arm.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.