Why Do I Have Right Arm Pain? Causes, Treatment, & More

By Terez Malka, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 7, 2022

Have you ever had pain in your right arm? If so, you’re not alone. Millions of people experience right arm pain every year.

Our arms are made up of muscles, joints, and tendons, all of which can be susceptible to injury or pain. 

There are many potential causes of right arm pain, including overuse injuries, accidents, and underlying medical conditions.

Treatment for right arm pain will vary depending on the cause. In some cases, rest and home remedies may be all that’s needed to ease your pain. In other cases, you may need medical treatment.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the causes of right arm pain and discuss some treatment options.

We’ll also share some tips for preventing right arm pain from happening in the first place.

So if you’re experiencing right arm pain, read on! You’ll find the information you need to start feeling better.

What Is Right Arm Pain? 

Right arm pain is any pain or discomfort that occurs in the right arm. It can range from mild to severe, and it can occur suddenly or gradually.

Right arm pain can affect any part of the arm, from the shoulder to the fingertips. It can also radiate from other parts of the body, such as the neck or back.

It’s possible that shoulder pain can radiate down into your arm.

Conversely, a condition affecting your upper arm may be felt around your shoulder. 

Problems with the rotator cuff are the most common cause of this type of pain.

Many of these issues are also the cause of left shoulder pain. However, some causes of left shoulder pain may also be related to organs that cause referred radiating pain.

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Causes

There are many potential causes of right arm pain.

Injury

One of the most common causes of right arm pain is injury. Any type of trauma to the arm can cause pain, including fractures, dislocations, sprains, and strains. 

Accidents or falls are common reasons people injure their arms; overuse injuries can also lead to pain in the right arm. These types of injuries occur when you repeatedly use the same muscle group without giving it time to rest.

Tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow are two examples of overuse injuries that can cause right arm pain.

Circulation problems

Circulation problems can also cause right arm pain. If the blood flow to your arm is restricted, it can cause pain, numbness, and tingling.

This type of pain is often worse when your arm is elevated. 

There are many conditions that can lead to circulation problems in the arms, including peripheral artery disease (PAD), thrombophlebitis, and Raynaud’s disease. 

PAD occurs when the arteries that supply blood to your arms and legs become narrow or blocked. Thrombophlebitis is a condition that causes inflammation and clotting in the veins.

Raynaud’s syndrome is a condition that affects blood circulation, causing the fingers and toes to feel numb and cold. Many of these conditions will affect both arms.

Peripheral neuropathy 

This condition occurs when the nerves that carry messages to and from the brain become damaged. Peripheral neuropathy can be caused by diabetes, certain medications, alcoholism, and vitamin deficiencies.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include numbness, tingling, and pain.

Angina 

Angina is a symptom of coronary heart disease and means your heart muscles aren’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood. Angina causes symptoms like those of a heart attack, but usually lasts only a few minutes.

It usually gets worse when you’re active and better when you rest.

Heart attack

A blood clot or rupture in a coronary artery can stop the flow of blood to part of your heart.

When that happens, the muscle can quickly become damaged. Without treatment, the heart muscle starts to die which can be fatal. 

If you or anyone you know is having symptoms of a heart attack, they should be seen emergently for further evaluation and treatment. 

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

Cervical stenosis

Cervical stenosis is a condition that occurs when the space in the spinal canal narrows.

This can lead to pain, numbness, or tingling in either arm.

Cervical stenosis is often caused by arthritis or degeneration of the spine and can often be treated with physical therapy and medication.

Bursitis

Bursa is the fluid-filled sac between the bone and moving parts of a joint. When the bursa becomes inflamed, it’s called bursitis. 

Bursitis of the shoulder is often the result of repetitive movement.

The risk of bursitis increases with age. The pain usually increases as you move or if you lie down on your arm or shoulder, and you may not be able to fully rotate your shoulder. 

Pinched nerve

A pinched nerve is one that’s compressed or inflamed. It can be a result of a herniated disc due to trauma, a muscle spasm, or an injury.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve may include numbness, tingling, or a burning sensation in your arm. You may feel an increase in pain when you move.

Autoimmune conditions 

Certain autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, can cause right arm pain and pain in any joints and muscles.

Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in the joints, while lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease that can affect different parts of the body, including the joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, and blood vessels.

Diagnosis

A healthcare provider can often diagnose the cause of right arm pain based on a person’s medical history, physical examination, and imaging tests.

Imaging tests may include x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.

If the cause of right arm pain is unclear, a healthcare provider may recommend blood tests to look for signs of infection or inflammation.

They may also recommend electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction studies to diagnose nerve problems.

Treatment  

To treat right arm pain, there are a variety of at-home and medical care options.

Home Remedies

There are several home remedies that can help ease the pain of right arm pain. 

These include:

  • Applying heat or ice to the affected area
  • Taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Resting the arm
  • Avoiding activities that aggravate the pain
  • Maintaining good posture
  • Using proper form when lifting weights
  • Staying hydrated
  • A gentle exercise program to maintain flexibility and strength, depending on the condition

Medical Care

Once the cause of right arm pain is diagnosed, treatment can begin. Treatment will focus on relieving symptoms and underlying causes. 

These can include:

  • Immobilization: In some cases, limiting the movement of your shoulder or arm may help it heal. This is often achieved using a sling, brace, or cast. Your medical provider will let you know when the device can be removed.
  • Corticosteroid injections: This is a type of medication that a medical specialist can inject into inflamed joints to help reduce inflammation.
  • Prescription medications: Prescription pain medications may be given for severe pain. Oral corticosteroids can help ease inflammation in certain conditions. If you have RA or an autoimmune disease, your provider will discuss treatment options for your specific condition.
  • Physical therapy: Your provider may give you a list of exercises to do that can help you regain strength, flexibility, and range of motion. In some cases, they may recommend that you work with a physical therapist.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be recommended when other treatments haven’t been effective or when damage is severe. The specific procedure that’s used will depend on what’s causing your condition.

Prevention

There are several things you can do to help prevent right arm pain.

Some good tips include: 

  • Maintaining good posture
  • Using proper form when lifting heavy objects
  • Staying hydrated
  • Avoiding activities that aggravate the pain
  • Resting the arm when it’s sore
  • Maintaining general physical fitness
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When To See a Medical Provider

Seek emergency treatment if your arm, shoulder, elbow, or wrist pain is the result of severe trauma or comes on suddenly. If you have trouble moving your arm, it is very weak or numb, or it is obviously broken, call 911 or go to an ER.  

In rare cases, right arm pain that is worse with exertion and improves with rest or is accompanied by other signs of heart disease like sweating, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath, jaw, or chest pain can be a sign of heart disease. Seek immediate medical attention.  

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?

Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and, if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

What is right arm pain a symptom of?
There are many potential causes of right arm pain, and the specific cause can often be diagnosed based on a person’s medical history and physical exam. In some cases, lab or imaging tests may be needed. Potential causes include injuries, arthritis, nerve problems, and infections.
How do I know if my arm pain is serious?
If you have arm pain that is the result of a sudden injury or that is accompanied by swelling, severe pain, or difficulty moving your arm, you should seek medical attention.If your arm pain is accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, chest pain, shortness of breath, or jaw pain, it could be a sign of a more serious condition.
Does your right arm hurt before a heart attack?
While arm pain is not always a symptom of a heart attack, it can be. If you have arm pain that does not improve over time or is accompanied by other symptoms, contact your medical provider.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Terez Malka, MD

Dr. Terez Malka is a board-certified pediatrician and emergency medicine physician.