Pain in the upper arm can signal many issues. Of course, it’s important to talk to a doctor before attempting to self-diagnose, but being able to recognize some of the possible causes can help steer in the right direction with diagnosis. This article looks at 8 possible causes of upper arm pain.

1. Rotator Cuff Tear or Injury

Rotator cuff injuries affect the muscles and tendons around the shoulder joint. Pain may be felt in the upper arm and is often made worse with shoulder and arm movements. Repetitive motions, like lifting weights or playing sports can put strain on the rotator cuff and cause a tear or strain.


The signs of a rotator cuff tear or injury include:

  • Sharp twinges of pain
  • Weakness when trying to lift the arm
  • Pain that worsens with shoulder motion
  • Pain when trying to sleep


Treatment usually consists of physical therapy, medications to reduce inflammation, and rest. In some cases, surgery may be required. Generally, the sooner rotator cuff tears are treated, the faster the recovery.

2. Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow, also known as lateral epicondylitis, is an injury to the tendons that connect the forearm muscles and the outer elbow bone. This pain usually occurs with extended use of the arm or when doing repetitive motions.


The signs of tennis elbow include:

  • Pain on the outside of the elbow
  • Pain when gripping small objects
  • Pain when bending the wrist
  • Weakness in the forearm


Treatment typically consists of rest and physical therapy. Anti-inflammatory medications and steroids may be used to reduce the pain and swelling. In severe cases, surgery may be recommended.

People Also Ask

What Causes Pain in Upper Arm?

Pain in the upper arm can be caused by rotator cuff tears, tennis elbow, shoulder impingement, nerve damage, shoulder bursitis, arthritis, a fracture, or a tumor.

How Long Does Upper Arm Pain Last?

The amount of time it takes for upper arm pain to resolve depends on the underlying cause. Pain may last a few days to several months, depending on the condition.

Is Upper Arm Pain a Sign of Heart Attack?

Upper arm pain is not usually a sign of a heart attack, although pain or aching in the arms, neck, and jaw can sometimes be present with a heart attack.

Is Upper Arm Pain Serious?

Upper arm pain can occur in various conditions and, in some cases, it can be serious. It is important to talk to a doctor if the pain persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other signs and symptoms.


Pain in the upper arm can be due to a wide variety of conditions and it is important to talk to a doctor for a proper diagnosis. Treatments range from simple home remedies, such as rest and physical therapy, to more complex treatments, such as surgery. By understanding some of the common causes of arm pain, people can have a better idea of when to get medical help.

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