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Pain in the left arm and shoulder: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

There are many causes of Pain, and literally, any part of our body can hurt at some point. Similarly, there are many causes of Pain in the left arm and many of Pain in the shoulder on that same side, and they will not necessarily be the same. However, there are a small number of causes of Pain that jointly involve the left arm and shoulder. This type of Pain has generally been associated with a “heart attack.” However, myocardial infarction (the famous heart attack) is not the sole cause, although it is the most important since it can be life-threatening.

We will explain in this FastlyHealarticle, what can be the causes of Pain in the left arm and shoulder simultaneously and their treatments.

Left-arm and shoulder Pain due to cardiovascular causes

Myocardial infarction

As we have mentioned, it would be the most critical (and recognized) cause of joint Pain in the left shoulder and arm.

Doctors perform an electrocardiogram when we evaluate a patient with a probable myocardial infarction (MI). This will show us how the functionality of the different faces of the heart is located and where the lesion is located.

The infarction of the left posterolateral aspect of the heart can manifest as Pain in the shoulder and left arm, with less involvement of Pain in the chest itself, and can even extend to the back.

The Pain of IM usually occurs suddenly, suddenly and can be very sharp. Its intensity will be variable, but it will increase with the passing of the hours if treatment is not started, this being a manifestation that the damage continues to spread.

It is a pain that radiates to other nearby areas. It can start in the chest and release to the left side of the neck, the left side and jaw tip, and the left shoulder and arm.

It can also radiate towards the epigastrium (what is commonly called “the pit of the stomach”), which makes us think of lower face involvement, the type of heart attack most feared by doctors due to its erratic and potentially fatal evolution.

Also characteristic of a heart attack is its appearance predominantly at night (early morning) and the sensation of imminent death that the person has.

Angina pectoris

It is a manifestation of cardiovascular disease but less severe and lasting less than 30 minutes.

The arteries are also narrowed, but to a lesser extent than a heart attack. At a certain point, there may be a deficit in the supply of blood (and consequently, oxygen) to a specific cardiac area, which will lead to the production of Pain. This Pain can radiate to the left shoulder and arm, simulating an MI.

Unlike MI, it characteristically appears after some effort and has a significant association with stair climbing. During this effort, the body’s need for oxygen increases, thereby increasing the work of the heart. If your coronary arteries are blocked, you may have an episode of angina (or angina, also known).

Causes of Musculoskeletal Pain in the left arm and shoulder


Bursitis is an inflammatory process. In the shoulder joint, we have the so-called bursae, a specialized tissue whose function is to facilitate and cushion the movements of the muscle groups and tendons at that level. However, due to trauma or infection, the bursae on your shoulder can become inflamed, causing severe Pain that can even limit the mobility of the shoulder and the entire arm.

The Pain can compromise both and cause great anxiety in the person, simulating a heart attack. In general, its onset is much more progressive (insidious), and on rare occasions, this Pain radiates to the chest to complete the picture of apparent MI.


In the shoulder also and in the upper part of the humerus (the bone that forms the arm), some tendons of muscles of the upper limb pass and are inserted. As a result of injuries, trauma, and, more rarely, infections (usually viral), inflammation of these tendons can occur, setting up shoulder tendonitis.

The involvement can develop slowly or suddenly, depending on the cause, and involve both the shoulder and the arm.

Rotator cuff tear

The rotator cuff is an anatomical structure constituted in the shoulder from a group of muscles and tendons. Its primary function, among others, is to keep the head of the humerus bone in its position on the shoulder and allow the latter to move.

However, lifting heavy weights or performing specific movements aggressively can tear any of the structures involved.

In addition to pain in the shoulder and arm (it can happen on either side), the fundamental characteristic is that the person cannot lift the arm and perform the movement of combing the hair. The intensity of the Pain is variable, but it will increase with time if appropriate treatment is not established.

Herniated disc

Hernias produced in the discs between the vertebrae of the neck can cause pinching and compromise the roots of the nerves that emerge from the spine at that level, which innervate, among other structures, the shoulder and the entire upper limb.

The Pain is a pain described as dull, initially of mild intensity, but which can limit the mobility of the entire limb and can be accompanied by dizziness and nausea.

You can see more information in Herniated disc article: causes, symptoms, and treatment.


Fractures of any of the bones that make up the shoulder joint will produce Pain at that level that can spread to the arm and not necessarily be recognized as such by the person considering that the trauma that made it was minor.

They are common in the elderly and women with osteoporosis and are another cause of Pain in the left shoulder and arm.

Treatment of Pain in the left arm and shoulder

Treatment will depend on and vary depending on the cause of the Pain:

  • Of course, in the case of myocardial infarction, care should be immediately and ideally before 6 hours. The doctor will institute the appropriate treatment after confirming the diagnosis. The patient may warrant admission to a coronary care or intensive care unit depending on the damage found.
  • The angina yield with rest and the administration of nitrates, which cause dilation of the arteries involved; the Pain disappears immediately to the improved supply of blood and oxygen.
  • Bursitis and tendinitis will merit rest of the limb placing sling likely (to prevent the mobilization), (cold) physical means and muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory analgesics for several weeks, followed by subsequent rehabilitation.
  • Treatment of a rotator cuff tear depends on the structures involved. It can vary from simple measures equal to those indicated for bursitis/tendonitis plus physiotherapeutic rehabilitation for a specified time to the need for surgical intervention to repair the damage adequately.
  • Treatment of fractures at this level generally involves surgical resolution, involving the placement of osteosynthesis material to ensure adequate fixation of the affected bone.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Pain in the left arm and shoulder: causes and treatment , we recommend entering our category of Bones, joints and muscles .

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