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Arm Pain: Care Instructions


You can hurt your arm by using it too much or by injuring it. Biking, wrestling, and home repair projects are examples of activities that can lead to arm pain. Everyday wear and tear, especially as you get older, can cause arm pain. Your forearms, wrists, hands, and fingers are the parts of your arm that are most likely to become painful.

A minor arm injury usually will heal on its own with home treatment to relieve swelling and pain. If you have a more serious injury, you may need tests and treatment.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Rest and protect your arm. Take a break from any activity that may cause pain.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on your arm for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Prop up the sore arm on a pillow when you ice it or anytime you sit or lie down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.
  • If your doctor recommends a sling to support your arm, wear it as directed.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your arm or hand is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • You have new or worse pain.
  • You cannot use your arm.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks running up or down your arm.
    • Pus draining from an area of your arm.
    • A fever.
  • You have tingling, weakness, or numbness in your arm.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.