- Pain in the arms
- The pain is not due to a known injury
- Minor muscle strain and overuse injury are covered in this topic
- Arm pains are unusual
- Main Causes: Strained muscles from overuse injury (e.g., excessive throwing or swimming)
- Brief pains (1 to 15 minutes) are usually due to muscle spasms. These are rare and usually follow prolonged writing.
- Continuous acute pains (hours to 3 days) are usually due to overstrenuous activities or forgotten muscle injuries during the preceding day. These are most common in the shoulder area.
- Mild muscle aches also occur with many viral illnesses.
- Serious Causes: fractures, arthritis, neuritis
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
- Follows injury, see ARM INJURY
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
- Not moving or too weak to stand
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If
- Your child looks or acts very sick
- Swollen joint
- Bright red area on skin
- Muscle weakness or can't use arm
- Numbness (loss of sensation) present over 1 hour
- Severe pain or cries when arm touched or moved
- You think your child needs to be seen urgently
Call Your Within 24 Hours (between 9am and 4pm) If
- You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
- Fever is present
- Painful joint and can't move it normally
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If
- You have other questions or concerns
- Cause of arm pain is uncertain
- Arm pain present over 7 days Arm pains or muscle cramps are a recurrent chronic problem
Patient Home Care If
- Caused by strained muscles from excessive use
- Cause is obvious and harmless (e.g., sliver that's removed, a recent shot)
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR ARM PAIN
- Strained muscles are very common following vigorous activity (overuse injury) (e.g., repeatedly throwing a ball). You can treat them at home.
- Apply a cold pack or ice bag wrapped in a wet cloth to the sore muscles for 20 minutes several times on the first 2 days.
Pain Medicine: For pain relief, give acetaminophen OR ibuprofen as needed. (See Dosage table)
Hot Bath: If stiffness persists over 48 hours, have your child relax in a hot bath for 20 minutes 2 times per day, and gently exercise the involved part under water.
Expected Course: A strained muscle hurts for 2 or 3 days. The pain often peaks on day 2. Following severe overuse, the pain may last a week.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Swollen joint or fever occurs
- Pain caused by work or exercise persists over 7 days
- Pain becomes worse
Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011
Last Revised: 8/1/2011
Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker
Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.