“I have a weird feeling in my right arm sometimes” Are you also experiencing these weird feelings? Do you ever notice any weird feeling in your right arm? Does your right arm become numb all of a sudden? Have you ever felt the prickling sensation in your right arm?
In this article we will analyze some of the possible causes of these “weird” feelings in right arm and their treatment.
Weird feeling or sensation that you may feel in your right arm varies from tingling, feeling of pins and needles and numbness to pain that may be stabbing or feel like an electric shock or burning sensation. There are a number of causes that can make your right arm feel “weird”, ranging from temporary compression of nerve or blood vessel due to a poor posture, damaged nerve or neuropathy, radiation from other organ such as an inflamed gall bladder (cholecystitis) to an approaching heart attack or a tumor in the apex of lungs or it can even be due to anxiety and other mental health conditions. Thus, even though this weird feeling may not always indicate a serious condition but it’s important to recognize other signs and symptoms associated with it so that one can identify an emergency on time and call for help.
Causes and their treatment
These weird sensations in right arm can emanate from different causes, which may be temporary that recover on their own or permanent and requiring medical intervention. The mechanism involved behind these sensations may include:
- Poor blood circulation in right arm
The blood circulation may be disturbed temporarily if we hold our arm in an improper posture for long time. After a while when you change the position of your arm it feels numb. You may also notice a slight change in color of your right arm. Due to reduced blood circulation it may appear pale compared to other limbs.
Some medical conditions can also lead to poor blood circulation. These include atherosclerosis, vasculitis and diabetes. In these medical conditions the blood vessels become narrower due to deposition of cholesterol in vascular walls (as in atherosclerosis), or the vessels are inflamed and at risk of clot formation that can eventually clog the vessel and prevent the blood flow (as in vasculitis) or the vessels may be damaged due to high blood sugar, increasing the risk of clot formation that will either restrict or totally block the blood flow (e.g. diabetes).
Risk of these medical conditions is high in people who are obese, who smoke or have a family history of any of these conditions.
- over or under use of right arm
Too much exercise and physical activity may be followed by tenderness in your arms due to fatigued muscles. Since, most of the people are right handed; strenuous activities are often followed with pain and weakness in right arm. These activities if done beyond one’s capacity can also injure tendons and joints.
Tendonitis or inflammation of tendon, bursitis, muscle strain and sprain, tendon injury etc all of these are common among those who use their right arms a lot such as an athlete or gymnast or a worker who lifts heavy weights.
At the same time, not moving your right arm for a long period will be accompanied by a sensation of pins and needles (known as paresthesia, medically) after you move your arm that was held in one position for longer period.
- Damaged or irritated nerve
Local compression on nerve can cause numbness and tingling in the area that this nerve innervates.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or CTS is a common condition in which people experience a weird sensation in their wrist and arm, mostly right hand. In CTS, the median nerve is compressed under the carpal tunnel that is present between wrist and palm. Most common cause of CTS is repetitive wrist movements. Other causes may involve obesity, injury, fluid retention, chronic diseases like diabetes, wrist injury etc.
Doctors mostly treat CTS by asking the patient to use splint for few weeks, painkillers like paracetamol (reduces pain for awhile, not permanent treatment) and avoiding movements that make the symptoms worse. If none of this works, steroid injection in the carpal tunnel or even surgery may be done to remove the compression from the nerve.
Nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy also causes pin and needle sensation in the affected area. This may eventually lead to loss of sensation as well. Diabetes is the most commonly mentioned disease when peripheral neuropathy is discussed. It begins in hand or feet and later on moves towards more proximal areas.
Nerve damage may also be due to vitamin B12 deficiency, trauma, infection, alcohol abuse, tumors, autoimmune disorder etc.
Peripheral neuropathy can be treated by treating the underlying cause for example in diabetics, it is important to keep their blood sugar in control and prevent the drastic effects of hyperglycemia on nerves. Additionally, medicines like NSAIDS, Gabapentin and Pregabalin (anti seizures), and Nortriptylin which is an anti depressants, can be used to relieve the symptoms.
- Cervical disc herniation
Bulged spinal disc in the neck area can put pressure over the nerves that pass through the space between two cervical vertebrae. This pressure or compression on nerve can cause an electric pain in the right arm if the compressed nerve innervates the content in right arm.
Disc herniation becomes a common problem as one ages but this may also be triggered by heavy weight lifting or sudden jerky movements of neck.
Other symptoms of cervical disc herniation may include muscle weakness in the affected arm, loss of sensation etc.
Physiotherapy, using neck collars, drugs such as NSAIDS or injection of corticosteroids in the area of herniation can help reduce pain.
- Heart attack
Heart attack is something that we are scared off if someone feels a sudden pain in his or her right arm (or left arm). Heart attack or angina pectoris occurs when heart muscles do not receive enough blood supply.
During a heart attack one may experience severe chest pain, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath and dizziness. It is important to call emergency as soon as one suspects a heart attack.
Heart attack will need quick medical intervention. Its treatment is based on the type of heart attack but in an emergency the priority is to restore proper blood circulation to heart muscles as soon as possible. Treatment involves aspirin, nitroglycerine, thrombolytic drugs, blood thinners or placing stent, angiography etc.
Stroke is yet another serious condition in which like heart attack, the blood supply to brain is suddenly stopped. This may occur due to a clot blocking the vessel or sudden rupture of blood vessel.
Symptoms of a stroke include neurological symptoms such as one sided drooping of eyelids and mouth, confusion, inability to speak properly, unilateral loss of sensation of limbs.
Call ambulance quickly if you see these symptoms.
Treatment for stroke is based on its cause. If it occurs due to a clot, blood thinners may be prescribed while for some surgical removal of clot might be considered.
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
Thoracic outlet is a space between your collar bone and first rib. Many important nerves and blood vessels pass through this space to enter the arm. If this space is disrupted by any mean such as a mass or tumor, trauma, congenital presence of an extra rib (cervical rib), repetitive motions of arm etc, the contents of this space i.e., nerves and blood vessels entering the arm can get compressed and thus, cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling or even pain in arm. If the right thoracic outlet is disrupted, all these weird feelings will be experienced in the right arm.
Medical imaging is necessary to detect the possible cause of this condition.
Treatment will be based on the cause and involves pain killers and surgical removal of the cause of compression.
- Pancoast tumor
It is a rare tumor of apex of lung which has to capability to invade and compress the surrounding vessels and nerves especially those entering the arm. Hence, it can cause thoracic outlet syndrome, which in turn will manifest as numbness and tingling in the arm.
Diagnosis is based on imaging like chest x-ray and CT scan.
Treatment involves radiotherapy, chemotherapy and even surgical removal of apex of lung.
Mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression have proven to cause physical symptoms in the body such as heachache, stomachache or pain in the arms and legs even though there is no actual problem in these organs itself.
Usually the diagnosis is based on exclusion, that is when nothing explains the pain, and all tests turn out to be normal, the wierd semsations that you experience may be due to anxiety or a hidden depression that you’re not aware of.
Treatment will require counselling and drugs such as anti depressants.
- Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis or MS is condition in which the myelin sheath covering the neurons is damaged by unknown mechanism, disrupting the signal transmission ability of nervous system. This leads to a wide range of signs and symptoms as properly working neurons are necessary for almost every function of our body. Muscle weakness, double vision, troubled sensation and coordination are some of the symptoms of MS.
Since, the neurons are not functioning properly, this may present as numbness and tingling in the arm as well.
It has no treatment at present time but the symptoms are managed therapeutically by using corticosteroids or interferons.
It is the inflammation of gall bladder which usually occurs due to presence of stones or gall stones.
Acute cholecystitis manifests in the form of pain in the right upper portion of abdomen, fever, nausea, vomiting etc. The pain is sudden ,intense and may radiate to right shoulder. Patient usually gives a history of onset of pain after a fatty meal.
Thus, if you have gall stones there is a possibility that you may feel pain in your right shoulder or upper aspects of your right arm as well.
Treatment ranges from pain killer and antibiotics to surgery, which will be decided on the basis of complication assessment i.e., if complication such as perforated gallbladder or gangrene is seen, emergent surgical removal of gall bladder will be done.
When to seek a doctor’s help?
Any weird feeling in your right arm that may manifest as numbness or pain, should make you consult the doctor if;
- You suspect that the weird sensation is due to a heart attack or stroke; you must call an emergency as soon as possible. It is important to notice other signs and symptoms that will direct a person towards suspecting a heart attack or stroke.
- it persists for too long that it affects your normal daily routine
- With each passing day it becomes worse and severe than the previous day.
Once you decide to visit your GP, your must be ready to give your complete history so you may help your doctor to reach the diagnoses. Apart from history, the doctor will need to perform complete physical examination and later on may order some tests such a MRI, CT scan, X-ray, lab tests such as CBC, FBS, TSH and much more to finalize the diagnoses.
How can I prevent these weird feelings?
Temporary paresthesia or weird sensations that persist for a while due to poor posture, nerve compression or a minute period of lack of proper blood circulation are usually unavoidable as you cannot control your body when you are in sleep or too concentrated to notice that you have not changed your position since a long time now.
What you can do to avoid the severity of this sensation is
- Take break while working for longer periods.
- During these breaks, walk around and do some stretches.
- Avoid keeping your hand underneath your head when you go to sleep
- Try to avoid repetitive movements of right hand or take rest in between if you have to do these movements.
So far sensations that occur due to an underlying condition are concerned, only way to avoid them is to treat the actual cause.
Also, adopting a healthier lifestyle which includes proper and nutritious diet, exercise, avoiding smoking , maintaining proper weight and regular body check up can help one prevent or manage chronic diseases like diabetes.
So, as we saw, tingling, numbness, pin and needles, electric or burning pain or any other form of weird feeling can have a large number of reasons. It may result because you forgot to move your hand from beneath your head when you were deep in sleep or when you held your hand in a very comfortable position for so long, that your arm now feels stiff and definitely not comfortable anymore or this weird sensation may be a sign of an underlying condition, where your body is trying to send you signals so you may understand, visit your doctor and get that condition treated or controlled.
Whether the probable cause of any of these weird feelings is a benign and temporary reason or a serious and fatal cause, it is important that you stay vigilant and not miss the serious cause such as a heart attack.