Arm Problems, Noninjury - Women's Health - Associates for Women's Medicine (2023)

Do you have an arm problem?

This includes symptoms like pain, numbness, and trouble moving the arm normally.

Yes

Arm problem

No

Arm problem

How old are you?

Less than 5 years

Less than 5 years

5 years or older

5 years or older

Are you male or female?

Male

Male

Female

Female

The medical assessment of symptoms is based on the body parts you have.

  • If you are transgender or nonbinary, choose the sex that matches the body parts (such as ovaries, testes, prostate, breasts, penis, or vagina) you now have in the area where you are having symptoms.
  • If your symptoms aren’t related to those organs, you can choose the gender you identify with.
  • If you have some organs of both sexes, you may need to go through this triage tool twice (once as "male" and once as "female"). This will make sure that the tool asks the right questions for you.

Have you injured the arm in the past month?

Yes

Arm injury in the past month

No

Arm injury in the past month

Have you had arm surgery in the past month?

If a cast, splint, or brace is causing the problem, follow the instructions you got about how to loosen it.

Yes

Arm surgery in the past month

No

Arm surgery in the past month

Do you have a neck injury or other neck problem?

Yes

Neck problem or injury

No

Neck problem or injury

Could you be having symptoms of a heart attack?

If you're having a heart attack, there are several areas where you may feel pain or other symptoms.

Yes

Symptoms of heart attack

No

Symptoms of heart attack

Has sudden, severe weakness or severe numbness affected the whole arm or the whole hand?

Weakness is being unable to use the arm or hand normally, no matter how hard you try. Pain or swelling may make it hard to move, but that is not the same as weakness.

Yes

Severe or sudden numbness or weakness in the whole arm or hand

No

Severe or sudden numbness or weakness in the whole arm or hand

When did it start?

Think about when you first noticed the weakness or numbness or when you first noticed a major change in the symptoms.

Less than 4 hours ago

Numbness or weakness began less than 4 hours ago

From 2 days to 2 weeks ago

Numbness or weakness began 2 days to 2 weeks ago

More than 2 weeks ago

Numbness or weakness began more than 2 weeks ago

Do you still have any weakness or numbness?

Weakness or numbness that does not go away may be more serious.

Yes

Numbness or weakness is now present

No

Numbness or weakness is now present

Has the weakness or numbness:

Gotten worse?

Numbness or weakness is getting worse

Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?

Numbness or weakness is unchanged

Gotten better?

Numbness or weakness is improving

Is the arm blue, very pale, or cold and different from the other arm?

If the arm is in a cast, splint, or brace, follow the instructions you got about how to loosen it.

Yes

Arm blue, very pale, or cold and different from other arm

No

Arm blue, very pale, or cold and different from other arm

Is there any arm pain?

Yes

Arm pain

No

Arm pain

How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?

Signs of pain in a baby or toddler are different than signs of pain in an older child.

5 to 10: Moderate to severe pain

Moderate to severe pain

1 to 4: Mild pain

Mild pain

Has the pain:

Gotten worse?

Pain is increasing

Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?

Pain is unchanged

Gotten better?

Pain is improving

Do you have any pain in your arm?

Yes

Arm pain

No

Arm pain

How bad is the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, if 0 is no pain and 10 is the worst pain you can imagine?

8 to 10: Severe pain

Severe pain

5 to 7: Moderate pain

Moderate pain

1 to 4: Mild pain

Mild pain

How long has the pain lasted?

Less than 2 full days (48 hours)

Pain less than 2 days

2 days to 2 weeks

Pain 2 days to 2 weeks

More than 2 weeks

Pain more than 2 weeks

Has the pain:

Gotten worse?

Pain is getting worse

Stayed about the same (not better or worse)?

Pain is unchanged

Gotten better?

Pain is getting better

Do you think the problem may be causing a fever?

Some bone and joint problems can cause a fever.

Yes

Possible fever

No

Possible fever

Are there any symptoms of infection?

Yes

Symptoms of infection

No

Symptoms of infection

Are there red streaks leading away from the area or pus draining from it?

Yes

Red streaks or pus

No

Red streaks or pus

Do you have diabetes, a weakened immune system, peripheral arterial disease, or any surgical hardware in the area?

"Hardware" includes things like artificial joints, plates or screws, catheters, and medicine pumps.

Yes

Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area

No

Diabetes, immune problems, peripheral arterial disease, or surgical hardware in affected area

Is there any swelling?

Yes

Swelling

No

Swelling

Are you having trouble moving your arm?

Pain or swelling can limit movement.

Yes

Difficulty moving arm

No

Difficulty moving arm

Is it very hard to move or somewhat hard to move?

"Very hard" means you can't move it at all in any direction without causing severe pain. "Somewhat hard" means you can move it at least a little, though you may have some pain when you do it.

Very hard

Very hard to move

Somewhat hard

Somewhat hard to move

How long have you had trouble moving the arm?

Less than 2 days

Difficulty moving arm for less than 2 days

2 days to 2 weeks

Difficulty moving arm for 2 days to 2 weeks

More than 2 weeks

Difficulty moving arm for more than 2 weeks

Has the loss of movement been:

Getting worse?

Difficulty moving is getting worse

Staying about the same (not better or worse)?

Difficulty moving is unchanged

Getting better?

Difficulty moving is improving

Has the arm problem lasted for more than 2 weeks?

Yes

Symptoms for more than 2 weeks

No

Symptoms for more than 2 weeks

Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:

  • Your age. Babies and older adults tend to get sicker quicker.
  • Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care sooner.
  • Medicines you take. Certain medicines, such as blood thinners (anticoagulants), medicines that suppress the immune system like steroids or chemotherapy, herbal remedies, or supplements can cause symptoms or make them worse.
  • Recent health events, such as surgery or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them more serious.
  • Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug use, sexual history, and travel.

Try Home Treatment

You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.

  • Try home treatment to relieve the symptoms.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect). You may need care sooner.

HomeTreatment

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Symptoms of infection may include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or around the area.
  • Red streaks leading from the area.
  • Pus draining from the area.
  • A fever.

Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:

  • Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Long-term alcohol and drug problems.
  • Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety of conditions.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for cancer.
  • Other medicines used to treat autoimmune disease.
  • Medicines taken after organ transplant.
  • Not having a spleen.

Pain in children under 3 years

It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or grimace.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds when you try to comfort him or her.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds when you try to comfort him or her.

Pain in children 3 years and older

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that the child can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain. No one can tolerate severe pain for more than a few hours.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt the child's normal activities and sleep, but the child can tolerate it for hours or days.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): The child notices and may complain of the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt his or her sleep or activities.

Pain in adults and older children

  • Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
  • Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days. Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's there.
  • Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain, but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.

Symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
  • Lightheadedness or sudden weakness.
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.

For men and women, the most common symptom is chest pain or pressure. But women are somewhat more likely than men to have other symptoms, like shortness of breath, nausea, and back or jaw pain.

When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood supply to the area. This can be serious.

There are other reasons for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and this change does not go away.

Seek Care Now

Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.

  • Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care in the next hour.
  • You do not need to call an ambulance unless:
    • You cannot travel safely either by driving yourself or by having someone else drive you.
    • You are in an area where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.

Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength (325 mg) or 2 to 4 low-dose (81 mg) aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.

Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.

Seek Care Today

Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.

  • Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms and arrange for care.
  • If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have one, seek care today.
  • If it is evening, watch the symptoms and seek care in the morning.
  • If the symptoms get worse, seek care sooner.

HomeTreatment

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Call 911 Now

Based on your answers, you need emergency care.

Call 911 or other emergency services now.

Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.

Make an Appointment

Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.

  • Make an appointment to see your doctor in the next 1 to 2 weeks.
  • If appropriate, try home treatment while you are waiting for the appointment.
  • If symptoms get worse or you have any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.

HomeTreatment

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