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Causes of Left Arm & Neck Pain

Numerous conditions can cause left arm and neck pain. According to the Spine Universe website, in some cases, arm pain is not a symptom of an arm problem, but a sign of cervical spine or neck problems instead 1. Cervical spine problems can affect a person's shoulders, arms and hands. Arm and neck pain, including left-sided arm and neck pain, may be caused by wear and tear, traumatic injuries or certain medical conditions.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

Burners and Stingers

Burners and stingers are nerve-related injuries that can cause left arm and neck pain. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, or AAOS, burners and stingers are common injuries among athletes, especially athletes participating in contact sports 2. Burners or stingers, which involve damage to the nerves that supply the upper arm, occur at the neck when the head is violently forced away from the affected-side shoulder. The name burner or stinger describes the pain sensation that radiates from the neck or shoulder to the hand, which can feel like an electric shock.

Common signs and symptoms associated with burners and stingers include a burning or shock-like sensation in the neck and involved-side arm, arm numbness or weakness following the injury and a warm sensation in the injured areas. The AAOS states that most cases of burners and stingers self-resolve on their own over time.

Spinal Cord Tumor

Causes of Pain on the Right Side of the Neck Down to the Shoulder

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Spinal cord tumors, either cancerous or non-cancerous, can cause left arm and neck pain 3. The Merck Manuals website states that spinal cord tumors are less common than brain tumors 3. Spinal cord tumors are classified as either primary or secondary tumors 3. Primary spinal cord tumors originate in spinal cord structures and can be either cancerous or non-cancerous 3. Secondary spinal tumors, the most common kind of spinal tumor, are tumors that originate in other organs or areas of the body, but spread to the spine.

Spinal cord tumors in the neck can cause neck pain that gets progressively worse, along with arm pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the arm 3. The arm pain is caused by compression of spinal nerve roots, offshoots of the spinal cord, as the tumor enlarges. According to the Merck Manuals website, if the pressure on affected nerve roots is not reduced, affected-side upper extremity muscles will atrophy, or waste away.

Heart Attack

A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, is a potentially life-threatening cause of left arm and neck pain. The most common cause:

  • of blocked arteries is coronary artery disease
  • a condition in which plaque
  • a combination of fat
  • cholesterol
  • fibrous material
  • accumulates on the inside walls of the coronary arteries

In some cases, a piece of plaque can break off, causing a blood clot to form. A clot that blocks blood flow to the heart can cause severe chest pain.

The Wrap Up

Numerous conditions can cause left arm and neck pain. The AAOS states that most cases of burners and stingers self-resolve on their own over time. Primary spinal cord tumors originate in spinal cord structures and can be either cancerous or non-cancerous. The arm pain is caused by compression of spinal nerve roots, offshoots of the spinal cord, as the tumor enlarges.

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