Any kind of severe pain, whether it is in the arm or elsewhere in the body, may cause nausea and even vomiting. Extreme pain can stimulate the body’s nervous system and cause organs such as the adrenal glands to release hormones.
- When the nervous system is in a hyperactive state and heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration rates are increased, the brain sometimes cannot handle everything at once and it can lead to a feeling of nausea.
- Vomiting is a way the body rids itself of harmful foods and poisons, and when the nervous system is overstimulated, this can cause the body to sense danger and trigger this response.
Chronic pain or pain medications taken to manage chronic pain may also cause nausea.
In addition, a heart attack (also called myocardial infarction or MI) can cause both pain in one or both arms, along with nausea and/or vomiting.
A heart attack is a medical emergency. If you think you are having symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital’s emergency department immediately. Do not attempt to drive yourself.
What Are Symptoms of Arm Pain and Nausea?
Depending on the cause, symptoms that may accompany arm pain and nausea may include:
- Arm stiffness
- Difficulty moving the arm
- Tenderness or soreness
- Fever (if there is an infection)
- Arm weakness
- Redness or discoloration of the skin on the arm
- Itching or throbbing skin
- Pain that worsens when exercising
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle pain/muscle aches
- Reduced range of motion
- Muscle cramps
Additional symptoms of a heart attack, that can also cause arm pain and nausea, may include
- Chest pain (angina)
- Pain, tingling, or discomfort in other areas of the body
- Shortness of breath (may occur with or without chest pain)
- Extreme fatigue
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold sweats/clammy skin
- Racing or irregular heartbeat
- Back or jaw pain
A heart attack is a medical emergency. If you think you might be having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.
What Causes Arm Pain and Nausea?
There are a number of different causes of arm pain and nausea.
Severe arm pain that can cause nausea can be caused by:
- Broken bone in the arm (fracture) or other injury or trauma to the arm
- Sprains and strains
Arm pain accompanied by nausea can also be caused by a heart attack.
How Is Arm Pain and Nausea Diagnosed?
The cause of arm pain and nausea is diagnosed with a patient history and physical examination.
Tests used to help diagnose the cause of arm pain may include:
- Blood tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Electromyography (EMG)/nerve conduction study
If you have arm pain and nausea and a heart attack is suspected, diagnostic tests may include:
- Blood tests
- Cardiac troponin test
- Echocardiogram (“echo”)
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac catheterization (angiogram)
- Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
What Helps Relieve Arm Pain and Nausea?
The treatment for arm pain and nausea depends on the cause.
Home remedies to ease arm pain and nausea may include:
- When an injury first occurs, use the RICE method:
- Avoid any activities or sports that could strain the area
- Ice: to decrease pain, swelling, and redness
- If an injury is iced immediately, it may prevent some inflammation
- Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel
- Ice the area for 20 to 30 minutes two to four times a day
- Compression: to prevent inflammation
- Use elastic wraps such as Ace bandages or a compression garment
- Do not wrap too tightly
- Elevation: propped up the affected arm to help reduce fluid buildup in the injured tissue
- Keep the arm above the level of the heart by using a pillow or bolster
- Drink plenty of water to reduce muscle cramps
- Take warm baths or showers
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers
Medical interventions to help relieve arm pain may include:
- Prescription pain medications
- Topical agents (creams) applied to the skin
- Steroid injections
- Spinal cord stimulator
- Nerve blocks
- Physical therapy
- Heat and cold therapy
- Electrical nerve stimulation (TENS unit)
- Alternative treatments
- Chiropractic adjustments
Often, nausea goes away on its own and can be treated at home. Home remedies to relieve nausea include:
- Drinking plenty of fluids, if you are able to keep them down
- Eating foods with a lot of fluid in them such as soup, Jell-O, and popsicles
- Inhaling peppermint oil may help relieve nausea
- Avoiding strong scents, such as the smell of perfume
- Taking medicines with meals when possible
- Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-nausea medicines
Medical treatments for nausea include:
- Fluids administered intravenously (IV)
- Prescription medications to help control nausea and vomiting (antiemetics)
If arm pain and nausea is caused by a heart attack, it needs to be treated in a hospital’s emergency department and treatment may include:
- Pain medications
- Anticoagulants to prevent blood clots
- Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Thrombolytics (clot busters) given intravenously (IV)
Surgical treatment for heart attack is a coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), in which a blocked coronary artery is bypassed using a healthy blood vessel from another part of the body.
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