Numbness in the Left Arm

November 12, 2012

Numbness in the Left Arm

Left arm numbness or tingling can occur as a result of a mild injury or sleeping on the arm. It may also indicate a serious underlying condition such as nerve damage or heart disease.

When Not to Worry

Some common arm or hand injuries such as bursitis and tennis elbow and even sleeping on the arm for prolonged periods of time can result in left arm numbness. This condition is fairly common and the tingling sensation or numbness will go away on its own within a few hours. You should, however, talk to a doctor right away if you cannot identify an immediate cause for your sensation as it may indicate a serious underlying condition.

Nerve Damage

An injury or disorder of the spine may also manifest itself as left arm numbness. Damage in the C6/C7 vertebral disks can cause pain and numbness in the lower part of the left arm. Upper left arm numbness can occur due to an injury in the C5/C6 disks or the C4/C5 disks. A pinched ulnar nerve can cause pain along the inner side of the left arm down to your little finger. Your physician may refer you to a neurologist if nerve damage is suspected. Many patients may require surgery to treat this condition.

Heart Attack

If you are experiencing a heart attack, you may feel left arm numbness along with other sensations such as heaviness in chest and shortness of breath. The pain and sensations in your heart may start a few days before the actual attack. You may also experience nausea, sweating, or generally sick. Many heart attacks, especially those in women, may not involve any pain.

These symptoms when combined with arm numbness often are a sign of an impending heart attack. However, even without these other symptoms, a person may be in trouble. Some heart attacks are not accompanied by pain. Most women, for example, do not experience much pain during their heart attacks. You should seek emergency medical help if you have any suspicion of a heart attack.

When to See a Doctor

Most experts agree that you should seek immediate medical help if you experience left hand numbness suddenly without any apparent cause, after head injury, or if involves the entire arm. You should also talk to a doctor right away if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms along with your left hand numbness:

  • Fatigue or immobility

  • Confusion

  • Speech problems

  • Dizziness and disorientation

  • Headache

Left arm numbness that begins gradually but worsens over time may not require emergency help but you should schedule an office visit to identify the underlying cause. You should also talk to a doctor if your numbness is associated with certain arm movements or if it affects only specific parts of the arm.

Your doctor may perform thorough physical examination and recommend tests such as x-rays, MRI scans and CT scans to identify the underlying conditions.


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