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What Causes Arm Inflammation?

A. Pasbjerg
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Arm inflammation can be caused by a number of medical conditions, particularly autoimmune disorders, or it can be the result of injury. Rheumatoid arthritis is one common culprit that causes inflammation in the joints of the arms. Inflammation of the blood vessels, a condition known as vasculitis, can also affect the arms, particularly in patients with Buerger's disease. Other diseases that can affect the arms include scleroderma, lupus, and dermatomyositis. Injuries may be the result of a single incident that causes strain or damage, from overuse, or from repetitive motion and can cause inflammation in the bones or joints, muscles, or tendons and ligaments.

A frequent cause of arm inflammation is rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disorder afflicts the synovial membranes that line the joints, causing them to become swollen, stiff, and painful. When it affects the arms, it is particularly common in the wrists and fingers. Typically, the problem will arise on both sides of the body.

The blood vessels in the arms can become inflamed in patients with vasculitis, in particular a form known as Buerger's disease. This condition can cause pain and ulcerations along the arms and on the fingers, and may be accompanied by blood clots. People who smoke cigarettes may be more prone to this type of vasculitis.

A number of other medical conditions can also lead to arm inflammation. Patients with the autoimmune disorder lupus may experience inflammation in a number of different tissues in the arms, including muscles, skin, and joint tissues. Scleroderma, which is also an autoimmune disease, can affect the skin and blood vessels there. Long-term inflammation of the muscles in the body, caused by another autoimmune condition known as dermatomyositis, can affect the arms as well as other areas.

In addition to medical disorders, arm inflammation can also occur due to injury. Depending on the type of injury, inflammation can occur in the joint tissues, muscles, or connective tissues, or may be the result of a broken bone. Sprains, torn muscles, and dislocations or breaks can all be caused by a sudden trauma, such as from a fall or impact during sports. Tissues can sustain damage if they are overused or hyperextended, for example from lifting an object that is too heavy or exercising beyond one's physical ability. Jobs that require repetitive movements on a daily basis may also damage tissues in the arms, leading to inflammation that can cause pain, swelling, and numbness.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
A. Pasbjerg
By A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
Discussion Comments
By bythewell — On Sep 17, 2014

@MrsPramm - I usually end up just getting absorbed in a task, like typing or gaming and my elbow and wrists get sore from being in one position too long. I don't think it's adrenaline that's causing me not to notice until I stop the activity though.

By MrsPramm — On Sep 16, 2014

@browncoat - Well, something a lot of people are not aware of is that your muscles are actually capable of much more strength than you currently have. It's just that your brain and nervous system puts limits on them so they won't hurt the other parts of your body by pulling too hard.

That's why it's possible for people in extreme circumstances to lift a car off a baby, for example, when they usually would struggle to lift a chair.

And adrenaline, like the kind you might experience at a really good party or concert, can override the restrictions. So it's possible that you could have hurt yourself by pushing a little bit too hard and not realizing it.

By browncoat — On Sep 15, 2014

I once went to a music festival that went all day and into the night and I was already quite exhausted from traveling to get to the place where it was being held. I was on my feet and dancing and running around all that day in hot weather and thought that I was fine until my arm started to cramp up.

I think it was because I had a fairly heavy backpack on as well as all the exercise and general excitement, but my forearm swelled up and I just could not get rid of the severe cramp. In the end I had to go home before the festival ended because I was in too much pain and the next day my arm was bruised where the cramp had been. I think my muscles had basically had enough and just decided to rebel so much that they actually broke a blood vessel.

A. Pasbjerg
A. Pasbjerg
Andrea Pasbjerg, a The Health Board contributor, holds an MBA from West Chester University of Pennsylvania. Her business background helps her to create content that is both informative and practical, providing readers with valuable insights and strategies for success in the business world.
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