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Arm Strain - Types, Causes, and Treatment

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An arm sprain can be caused due to various factors, such as an injury or a fall. Read this article to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anuj Gupta

Published At June 13, 2023
Reviewed AtMay 7, 2024

What Is Arm Sprain?

Sprain of the arm is a condition that is caused due to excessive stretching or twitching of the ligaments of the arm. It is the tearing of the ligament due to the injury or heavy force on the arm. In the case of a sprain of the arm, it refers to the straining of the ligaments of the elbow or shoulder or both. The shoulder joint consists of three bones: the scapula, clavicle, and humerus. The elbow joint is also formed by three bones: the humerus, radius, and ulna.

What May Cause a Sprain in the Arm?

The sprain in the arm can be a sprain of the elbow or shoulder or both joints. The spraining of the arm can occur due to various reasons. It could be caused due to forceful twitching, falling on an outstretched arm, or an injury to the joint.

What Causes Shoulder Joint Sprain?

A shoulder sprain may occur while lifting heavy objects due to connective tissue disorders and decreased muscle strength. Pain due to a shoulder joint sprain may occur on the front side of the shoulder. The patient may complain of increased shoulder pain with the movement.

What Causes an Elbow Sprain?

An elbow sprain most commonly occurs due to sports activities such as baseball or gymnastics. An elbow sprain may also occur, most commonly due to an injury. This type of injury most commonly occurs due to a lack of adequate flexibility of the musculature. At times an elbow injury may occur due to any connective tissue disorders. Based on the severity of the condition, ligament tear of the elbow can be classified as:

  • Grade 1: Stretching of the ligament with a minimal tear.

  • Grade 2: The elbow ligament may be partially torn.

  • Grade 3: The ligament of the elbow may be completely torn.

What Are the Symptoms of Sprain of the Arm?

There may be various symptoms of the sprain of the arm. Some of the most common symptoms of arm sprain may include:

  • Swelling of the Joint: There may be swelling of the joint. The swelling of the joint could occur all of a sudden. This swelling could be due to the accumulation of inflammatory fluid in the joint. This swelling of the joint could increase with movement.

  • Redness of the Joint: There may be redness in the joint. The redness may be diffuse.

  • The Pain of the Joint: A joint sprain may be associated with severe pain. This pain may increase with the movement of the joint. At times the pain may also restrict the movement of the joint.

  • Restricted Movement of the Joint: Sprain of the joint may be associated with restricted movement of the joint. The restriction may be due to swelling or pain of the joint.

How to Treat an Arm Sprain?

The first and foremost thing to be followed with an arm strain is adequate rest should be given to the joint. Home care can be given, such as applying icepacks, compression, and elevation of the affected joint. The doctor may prescribe painkillers to give relief from the pain. Also, medications will be prescribed to reduce the swelling. A sling may be advised to restrict the movement of the joint. In case of a completely torn ligament, surgery may be required.

Rehabilitation therapy may be required to have optimal joint health post-recovery.

How to Prevent Sprain of the Arm?

The sprain due to a sudden fall or accident may not be preventable. However, injuries due to sports can be prevented. An arm sprain due to sports injuries can be prevented by:

  • Using supportive equipment.

  • By using appropriate padding while playing sports.

  • Practice warm-up exercises before playing the sport.

  • Increasing muscle strength to avoid injuries.

What Other Conditions Can Mimic Arm Strain Symptoms?

Certain other conditions can have symptoms that can be very much similar to that of an arm strain. The other conditions that can have similar symptoms may include:

  1. Frozen Shoulder: It is a condition that occurs due to the tightening of the connective tissue of the shoulder. It may cause pain along with stiffness in the shoulder. This condition can cause severe restrictions on the shoulder.

  2. Shoulder Impingement: This is an inflammation of the shoulder joint. This condition may be caused due to anatomical abnormalities of the shoulder. This condition can cause severe joint pain. This condition mainly occurs when the bone of the shoulder joint impinges on the nerve. This can limit the movement of the shoulder joint.

  3. Bursitis: This condition is caused by inflammation of the bursa layer of the shoulder joint. This condition can cause weakness, stiffness, and pain in the shoulder.

  4. Brachial Plexus Injury: This is the injury of the nerve that supplies the shoulder. This nerve injury can be caused due to various factors such as injury or tumor. Shock-like impulses characterize this condition.

  5. Cervical Radiculopathy: This condition is caused due to compression of the nerves. This condition has symptoms of pins and needles type of pricking. Along with it, this condition may be accompanied by severe pain.

  6. Tennis Elbow: This condition is the inflammatory condition of the elbow. This condition causes severe pain in the elbow joint. The slightest movement can cause severe pain in the elbow joint.

  7. Shoulder Dislocation: Shoulder pain can be caused due the dislocation of the shoulder. This dislocation can occur due to a fierce pull of the shoulder joint. It can also occur due to an injury to the shoulder joint.

  8. Arthritis: Arthritis is the inflammatory condition of the joint cavity. Arthritis can cause severe pain in the joint. This may also cause swelling and redness adjacent to the joint. Arthritis can also reduce the mobility of joints.


The arm sprain can be caused due to various factors, such as a fall or muscular weakness. This condition, however, can be resolved when appropriate treatment can be given. However, with the aid of diagnostics, care should be taken to make the correct diagnosis as other conditions can also have similar symptoms.

Dr. Anuj Gupta
Dr. Anuj Gupta

Spine Surgery


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