Left arm numbness or tingling sensation can be a frightening experience as many would think that it is already a sign of a heart attack. However, the chances of getting a heart attack from left arm numbness. Even though it is possible, heart attacks come with many other symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, excessive sweating, palpitation, and pain traveling throughout the body. These symptoms can also be caused by other health conditions.
The feeling of left arm numbness can be a symptom of many health problems. If you are experiencing persistent numbness in your left arm and it is starting to hurt, even if there are no physical activities involved, it is necessary to seek medical help right away to know the exact cause.
Problems That Can Cause Left Arm Numbness
The tingling or numbness of the left arm can be an indication of poor blood circulation or caused by electrolyte imbalance. Simple exercises and massage can treat the numbness easily. However, if the numbness or tingling sensation is felt frequently, it can be a sign of a chronic condition and you should seek immediate medical attention.
1. Heart Attack
The heart muscle needs a constant supply of oxygen-rich blood for it to function well. People with coronary artery disease have narrow arteries, and the blood cannot flow properly. Inflammatory cells, fatty substances, proteins, and calcium buildup in the arteries form hard plaques. When the outer shell of the plaque cracks (plaque rupture), platelets come to that part to help clotting. Blood clot forms around that plaque.
When a blood clot completely blocks the artery, the muscle of the heart becomes deprived of oxygen. Death of muscle cells in the heart can occur within a short period of time, and it can lead to permanent damage. This is already a heart attack.
Other symptoms of heart attack include:
- Chest pain, discomfort, pain below the breast bone
- Indigestion, fullness, feeling of vomiting
- Nausea, sweating, dizziness
- Discomfort radiating to the arm, throat, jaw or back
- Anxiety, extreme weakness, shortness of breath
- Irregular or rapid heartbeats
At the first signs of heart attack, seek immediate medical help. Waiting will increase the damage to the heart and will reduce the chances of survival.
Certain conditions such as thrombus formation in one or more vessels of the brain or heart, atheroma and embolus formation in the blood vessels to the brain, may lead to stroke. This is the result of sudden decrease of blood supply to the brain. High level of blood cholesterol and diabetes also contribute to numbness. Signs of symptoms of stroke may include:
- Sudden numbness of arm, face, leg, usually on one side of the body
- Sudden trouble of speaking and confusion
- Blurred vision, headache, dizziness
- Sudden loss of balance, trouble walking
If you have signs or symptoms of stroke, seek medical help immediately for proper treatment. Your doctor will identify the type and location of stroke, as well as the extent of damage in the brain. Keep in mind that a person can have stroke even without any sign or symptom. It is important to control your blood sugar level, blood cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Poor Blood Circulation
Poor circulation can be a result of other health conditions. The most common symptoms of poor circulation include numbness, throbbing, tingling sensation, or stinging pain in the limbs. When treated early, possible health conditions that lead to poor blood circulation can be prevented.
The circulatory system of the body is responsible for delivering blood, oxygen, and essential nutrients throughout the body. When a specific area of the body receives low amount of blood or oxygen, you may experience numbness or tingling sensation. This usually occurs in the arms and legs.
- Exercise – Your circulatory system depends mainly on your body movements in order to function well. Simple exercises can improve your overall blood circulation, such as walking or jogging. You can also focus arm exercises such as swimming, climbing, weights, and other activities. Exercise every day for at least 30 minutes will get the heart pumping.
- Improve your posture
- Include green tea in your diet – This healthy tea has great effects in improving the blood circulation.
4. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The carpal tunnel syndrome is the weakness, tingling and numbness sensation in your hand due to pressure of the median nerve. The median nerve, which is located in your wrist, is also responsible for controlling the movements and feeling of your thumb and other three fingers. Pressure from swelling or other causes on this nerve leads to carpal tunnel syndrome.
The most common causes of the swelling include pregnancy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and hypothyroidism. It can also be due to making the same hand or wrist movements for a long period of time.
Treatments for mild symptoms:
- Refrain from doing the activities that cause pain or numbness. It is important to rest your wrist to prevent your condition from getting worse.
- Apply ice on your wrist for ten to fifteen minutes.
- To alleviate the pain or swelling, you can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Wear a wrist splint.
If the symptoms still persist after several weeks or months, and you cannot do any task, surgery may be required.
5. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders. This result when the nerves or the blood vessels in the space between the first rib and collarbone are compressed. It results to shoulder and neck pain and numb fingers. The most common causes of this syndrome include physical trauma, anatomical defects, repetitive injuries, pressure on joints, poor posture and pregnancy.
The symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome may vary, as it depends on the parts or areas compressed. The signs and symptoms of this syndrome include:
- Weakening grip
- Tingling or numbness in arms or fingers
- Pain in shoulder, hand or neck
- Gilliat-sumner hand (muscle wasting in the base of thumb)
- Medications – Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants, pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications to alleviate the pain.
- Physical therapy – For neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, physical therapy is required to strengthen and stretch the muscles. This can also improve your posture and range of motion.
- Clot-dissolving medications – For venous or arterial thoracic outlet syndrome, your doctor may manage clot-dissolving medications.
If the treatments are not effective, a surgery may be required to treat thoracic outlet syndrome.
Drinking too much alcohol can damage the nerves. It can lead to major health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver. A person who consumes excessive alcohol may experience left arm numbness, which can be a sign of a severe health condition, such as anemia, cardiovascular disease, cancer, cirrhosis, dementia, depression, seizures, gout, high blood pressure, infectious disease, nerve damage and pancreatitis. While it is still early, it is best to treat alcoholism immediately to prevent possible severe conditions.
- Detoxification – After discontinuing alcohol consumption, it is important to detoxify. However, this would not stop the cravings and may result to hallucinations, seizures, delirium tremens, and in rare cases may lead to death.
- Exercise – Exercising releases chemicals in the brain that give “natural high.”
- Rehabilitation – This involves medications and counseling to provide the person’s need for keeping sobriety.
Alcoholics are often deficient in essential nutrients, lack of vitamins A, B complex, C, magnesium, zinc, selenium, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. It is important to have proper diet.
7. Cervical Herniated Disc
The spine in the back is cushioned by flat discs. Healthy discs absorb shock from the spine and keep it flexible. Herniated disc may occur in any area of the spine, but in most cases, they occur in lower back and neck. A cervical herniated disc is caused by wear and tear of the disc, which is known as disc degeneration. The symptoms of cervical herniated disc include numbness, pain, and weakness in shoulders, neck, arms, and hands. It can also cause tingling sensation in other areas of the body, such as the legs.
- Nonsurgical treatment – In most cases, herniated discs are treated with nonsurgical treatment, such as medicines to alleviate inflammation and pain, rest, and exercises suggested by the doctor.
- Physical therapy – Your doctor may recommend you to see a physical therapist. This will let you learn exercises and secure your neck.
- Traction – This is gentle and steady pulling on the head to stretch your neck.
- Surgery – Surgery may be required if the herniated disc is pressing the nerves or spinal cord. If you are in persistent pain, or reduced control of bowels or bladder, surgery will be considered.
8. Vitamin B Deficiency
One of the essential vitamins that maintain healthy body cells and high energy level is vitamin B. There are many types of vitamin B coming from different kinds of food. Depriving the body from this important vitamin can lead to many health problems, and one of the symptoms of most health conditions is the numbness, or tingling sensation of the left arm.
- Vitamin B-12 – This type of vitamin B regulates the nervous system and plays an important role in the growth and formation of red blood cells. Lack of vitamin B12 may result to anemia, confusion, weakness, tingling sensation and depression. The best sources of vitamin B 12 are eggs, liver, kidney, red meat, cheese, milk, shellfish and fish.
- Vitamin B-6 – Pyridoxine or vitamin B-6 helps in converting the food into energy. It also aids in fighting infections. Lack of vitamin B6 can result to anemia, infections, rashes, depression, confusion and nausea. Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 include salmon, tuna, chickpeas, watermelon, spinach, potatoes, ground beef, whole grains and beef liver.
Other Causes of Left Arm Numbness
- Pressure on your left arm
- Multiple sclerosis – a disease affecting the brain and spinal cord.
- Side effects of medication
- Vascular damage
- Pulled muscle
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Raynaud’s syndrome – condition that makes the arteries to the arms narrow.