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Physical Therapy Exercise for Arm Pain

Your arms are among the frequently used body parts, so it’s not surprising that many people suffer arm pain at some point. Arm pain can lower the quality of your life and should be treated as quickly as possible. Although there are many treatment options for arm pain, physical therapy can help you overcome arm pain in no time. The physical therapist will work with you, design a personalized treatment plan, and recommend exercises to relieve pain and strengthen your muscles.

This article will discuss arm pain, including how it occurs, when to seek treatment, and exercises that will help you recover from arm pain quickly.

Anatomy and Function of the Arm

The upper arm is involved in various movements such as adduction, abduction, extension, and flexion. On the other hand, the forearm muscles are involved in the flexion of the fingers and the wrist. The joints and muscles are also responsible for the rotation of the forearm.

Each arm also contains several nerves that provide sensory and motor functions. It also has several essential blood vessels that ensure blood circulation.

What Causes Arm Pain?

Since the arm is among the most heavily used body parts, it is susceptible to various problems. The most common arm problems include:

  • Nerve injuries
  • Fractures
  • Joint problems
  • Vascular problems

These problems usually result from trauma, overuse, underlying conditions, or normal wear and tear. It can also occur due to inflammation or irritation of tissues. Arm pain is considered mild or severe, depending on the extent of the injury.

Arm Pain Signs and Symptoms

Arm pain is often characterized by many signs and symptoms, including:

  • Numbness
  • General weakness
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Itching skin
  • Muscle aches

Carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and other overuse injuries can cause pain and soreness. Other chronic conditions such as strains, sprains, dislocation, and trauma also cause arm pain.

How is Arm Pain Diagnosed?

To identify the cause of your arm pain, the doctor or physical therapist will ask several questions about your injury and perform a physical examination. You can also expect your doctor to order imaging tests such as ultrasound, electromyography, magnetic resonance imaging, and nerve conduction study.

Does Arm Pain Heal on its Own?

Some forms of arm pain tend to go away on their own. However, some require adequate rest and professional treatment, such as physical therapy. Severe problems such as pinched nerves may require surgery.

Treatment Options for Arm Pain

If you are dealing with mild to moderate arm pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medications and self-care might reduce the pain and inflammation. However, if you have a more severe issue like a compressed nerve, it’s highly advisable to take a break and avoid repetitive tasks that stress your arm.

The RICE protocol can also help you deal with mild to moderate arm pain at home. When applying ice, remember only to do it for 20 minutes three times a day.

When Should You Seek Physical Therapy for Arm Pain?

It’s best to schedule an appointment with a licensed physical therapist if your arm pain results from severe trauma. Sudden arm pain can cause other serious issues if left untreated. Generally speaking, you should see a physical therapist if you have the following:

  • A sudden injury
  • Trouble rotating, raising, or moving your arm
  • Intense pain and swelling
  • Pain that worsens with exertion and reduces with rest
  • An increase in swelling or redness

Our licensed physical therapist will work with you and perform various tests to identify the cause of your arm pain. After that, the physical therapist will develop a personalized treatment plan based on your injuries and objectives.

The treatment plan includes exercises that will strengthen the affected muscles and tendons. These exercises can also help you regain your range of motion and prevent re-injury. Physical therapy can also help you avoid scarring after surgery.

Related: When Should I Seek Medical Treatment for Muscle Pain?

At-Home Physical Exercises for Arm Pain

A good thing about physical therapy for arm pain is that you don’t have to use over-the-counter medication to manage the pain and reduce inflammation. Instead, you can do various at-home physical therapy exercises to alleviate the pain and improve your range of motion. Some of the physical therapy exercises the physical therapist might recommend include:

Pendulum Exercise

The pendulum exercise can help you regain shoulder motion after surgery. Although it’s a basic exercise, most people tend to do it incorrectly. Follow these steps to do the shoulder pendulum exercise correctly.

  • Bend over as much as you can and place your non-injured arm on a chair or a table
  • Relax your injured arm and let it dangle straight down as you move your leg back and forth
  • Gradually increase the diameter of your movement and reverse direction periodically
  • Do it 5 to 10 times each day

External Torso Rotation

This exercise can help you manage neck and shoulder pain. Follow these steps to do the external torso rotation exercise correctly.

  • Sit in a chair and tighten your abdominal muscles
  • Exhale, then rotate your torso in one direction
  • Your hips should face forward every time you move your torso
  • Your hands and shoulders should move in the same direction
  • Pause and return to the forward position
  • Perform ten repetitions for each side

Shoulder U’s

The shoulder U’s exercise can help reduce tension in your shoulders. While standing up straight, interlock your fingers behind your back to mimic a U-shape with your arms. After that, keep your back straight and pull the shoulder blades together. After that, push your hands up from your back. Perform five repetitions and maintain for 30 seconds.

Arm Across the Chest

The arm across the chest stretch can improve your shoulder joint and surrounding muscles’ range of motion. Start by bringing your right arm across your chest, then use your left hand to support the arm around the elbow. Hold for around 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat with your left hand. Perform three to five repetitions on each side.

Start Your Physical Therapy Treatment for Arm Pain Today

Our Chicago physical therapy clinic is ready to help you recover from arm pain with physical therapy. Get in touch with one of our licensed physical therapists to schedule an appointment.