Left Arm Numbness or Tingling: Causes and Home Treatments

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Left Arm Numbness or Tingling: Causes and Home Treatments

The sensation of numbness, tingling or pain in your left arm could be a minor annoyance or it could indicate a serious medical condition. Depending on the cause of left arm numbness or tingling, just the upper part of your left arm, wrist, or hands may be affected. In other cases, you may lose sensation in your whole left arm.

In most cases, the “pins and needles” feeling down your left arm that may or may not result in numbness isn’t usually anything to worry about. Losing sensation in your left arm may be because of something as simple as sleeping on your arm, poor circulation, or a minor injury. In these cases, the abnormal sensation is usually temporary and feeling will return when the underlying cause is resolved.


However, sometimes numbness, tingling, and pain in your left arm could be an indicator of a more serious condition like a heart attack, stroke, or a side effect of diabetes. Serious medical conditions that cause loss of sensation in your arm will always be accompanied by other symptoms, and the tingling alone won’t usually indicate a life-threatening situation.

In this article, you will learn about the various causes of left arm numbness and tingling. In some cases, you will find out how to resolve the prickly sensation in your left arm and if numbness in all or part of your left arm is something to worry about.

Symptoms of Left Arm Tingling and Numbness

Numbness and tingling in your left arm are usually caused by nerves in your shoulder, back, or arm getting compressed. This can cause a burning feeling that tingles down your left arm from your shoulder to the tips of your fingers.

A prickly burning feeling could also be the result of blood vessels getting compressed for a period of time. When circulation returns to the affected arm, you will often feel tingling and itching as the numb sensation disappears.

If you have permanent or recurring left arm numbness, your doctor will look at other symptoms. For example, your doctor will want to know how far the tingling sensation goes down your arm and if you also have tingling in your right arm. If the loss of feeling in your arm is due to an injury, the doctor will check for damage to ligaments and bones. Of course, if you experience any kind of sudden loss of sensation in your arm along with chest pain and discomfort, you should visit your doctor promptly.

Left Arm Numbness: Common Causes and Treatments

Let’s look at the different reasons for a loss of sensation in your left arm that results in numbness and tingling.

Sleeping on left arm

One of the most common reasons for temporary numbness and tingling in your left arm is falling asleep on your arm. Sleeping in the wrong position with your arm under your body can also cause shoulder pain while sleeping. Falling asleep with an arm over the edge of a chair can also result in waking up with a numb arm.

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Sometimes, waking up with a numb arm is called “Saturday night palsy” because a person falls asleep with their arm pressed against the arm of a chair after drinking too much alcohol. Or, it can be called “Honeymoon palsy” because your partner has slept on your outstretched arm resulting in arm tingling or numbness when you wake up.

Prickling or “pins and needles” caused by pressure on a nerve is called paresthesia. Dr. Carol DerSarkissian on WebMD says that the tingling or numbness is usually a temporary condition and sensation should return to your arm when the pressure on the nerve is lifted.1

Left arm pain due to injury

Damage to a nerve caused by an injury to your left arm or left shoulder could cause a loss of sensation or tingling in that arm. Depending on the severity of the arm or shoulder injury you may have complete loss of sensation in that arm. Minor injuries may only result in a prickly sensation.

Dr. William Blahd on eMedicineHealth says that everyday “wear and tear” can cause injury to one or both arms resulting in arm tingling or numbness. This can even result in weakness, swelling or difficulty moving your arm.2

Serious injury to your left arm or shoulder during sports or falling on an outstretched arm can also cause your left shoulder or arm to feel numb. This can cause an injury to your brachial plexus nerves that control sensation in your arms and hands. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, brachial plexus injuries cause weakness or numbness in the affected arm, loss of sensation and movement, and pain.3

Dr. Blahd warns that numbness, tingling, or pins and needles in the injured arm could be a sign of damaged blood vessels or nerves. If your arm appears broken, you are in severe pain, or there is a lot of swelling, you should visit your doctor.4

If you have injured your arm, you can help relieve the symptoms by using the R.I.C.E. method for pain relief. For more information on how to relieve the symptoms of an arm injury, please read my article on effective natural treatments for relieving arm pain.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

A compressed nerve in your wrist caused by injury, repetitive work or arthritis could cause numbness in your arm and wrist. Carpal tunnel syndrome describes a condition where the nerve that runs from your forearm to your palm becomes squeezed. Sometimes, you may also have pain in your arm, wrist, or fingers.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome can result in weakness, numbness, and pain in the forearm and arm. Usually, the symptoms appear during the night and you may find that it’s difficult to grip objects. There are often many factors that combine causing carpal tunnel syndrome.5

Researchers from the University of Maryland recommend minimizing stress on the hands and wrists to help prevent carpal tunnel syndrome. Exercising and proper posture can help to reduce tingling and numbness in the fingers, hands, wrists, and arms.6

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Left Arm Tingling: Common Causes and Treatments

Pinched nerve in the cervical spine

Pinched nerve in your spinal cord can cause numbness and tingling in your left arm. According to Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD, damage to nerves in the neck region of the spine (known as the cervical spine) can cause cervical radiculopathy.

This medical term describes neurological symptoms resulting from any type of condition that irritates a nerve in the cervical spine. These conditions can occur as a result of pressure due to a ruptured disc, degenerative changes in bones as we age, arthritis or other injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots. Cervical radiculopathy condition causes pain to radiate to the arm, shoulder, upper back, neck, and chest. A person may also experience numbness and a tingling sensation in their fingers.21

Thoracic outlet syndrome

Thoracic outlet syndrome is caused when nerves in your shoulder get compressed and cause numbness and tingling in your left arm or right arm. Along with the tingling sensation in your arm you may also have pain in your collarbone. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that reasons for the thoracic outlet syndrome are injury, pregnancy, or bone defects.7

Researchers from the Washington University in St. Louis say that people who have thoracic outlet syndrome usually have a “pins and needles” sensation in their arm, forearm, or hand. Sometimes numbness in the affected arm can also occur.8

One cause of thoracic outlet syndrome is having a cervical rib. Doctors from the National Health Service say that cervical rib is an extra rib that forms just above the first rib on the right or left shoulder. This can cause a recurring, but temporary loss of sensation in the affected arm as well as tingling, a prickly tickling feeling, and pain.9

Poor circulation

Certain medical conditions can cause poor circulation in which blood vessels in your arm become narrow and result in tingling in one or both arms. Your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood around your body to nourish the body’s tissues. If circulation is poor, you may get tingling in your arms, hands, legs or feet because of reduced blood flow to these body parts.

The Ohio State University says that factors like high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, obesity, smoking, diabetes and genetic factors can cause narrowed arteries. This can result in arm artery disease which causes numbness in the arms. You may also notice that one or both arms have a pale complexion and feels cold.10

To help improve blood circulation to get rid of tingling in your arms and restore sensation, you should stop smoking, enjoy a healthy diet to help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood, and looking after your heart.

Other Causes of Pain in the Left Arm

Raynaud’s syndrome

Another circulatory problem that can cause tingling, numbness, and a cold sensation in your left arm or right arm and hands is Raynaud’s syndrome. Doctors don’t know what causes Raynaud’s syndrome but some autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus can sometimes be to blame.

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Dr. Colin Tidy on Patient.info says that small blood vessels in the fingers and toes seem to be more sensitive to cold temperatures. Cold weather can cause numbness, tingling, and throbbing in the lower part of your arm and hands.11

Diabetic neuropathy

Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the arms that can result in persistent tingling or numbness in the arms. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), around 70% of diabetic patients suffer some form of nerve damage.12

Diabetic nerve damage that results in a feeling like your skin is “crawling” or numbness in your left arm or right arm could be aggravated by carpal tunnel syndrome, autoimmune conditions, high blood glucose, or damage to blood vessels.

The NIDDK says that the first symptoms of diabetic neuropathy may only be mild tingling in your arms or legs. In time, the numbness and tingling can become more severe and constant. Peripheral neuropathy can affect any of your limbs.12

If you have diabetes, it’s important to look after your health and manage your condition properly. Some doctors recommend managing diabetes with a healthy diet to help keep your blood sugar levels in check. There are also many lifestyle changes that can help prevent diabetes or prevent the condition worsening.

Stroke

Another life-threatening condition that can cause numbness or a prickly sensation in one arm is a stroke. As with a heart attack, numbness in your arm itself won’t be the only symptom but it will be accompanied by other serious signs.

Dr. Gregory Thompson on WebMD says that a stroke can cause sudden numbness, tingling or loss of strength in your arm, face, or leg. This usually affects only one side of your body. Also, with the numbness sensation, you may have trouble speaking, have difficulty understanding what others are saying, or problems with balance.14

The Stroke Association recommends remembering the acronym “F.A.S.T.” to identify if someone is having a stroke. FAST stands for: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, and Time to call a doctor.15

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Doctors still don’t understand what causes multiple sclerosis, but early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis can affect your left or right arm. According to doctors on WebMD, early symptoms of MS include numbness and tingling and weakness in an arm or leg. Other early symptoms may include blurred or double vision, thinking problems, lack of coordination and loss of balance.22

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society mentions that numbness of the face, arms and legs is one of the most common first symptoms of MS and that the numbness may be mild or severe.23

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Other Reasons for Numbness, Tingling, or Pain in Left Arm

Apart from the above-mentioned reasons for numbness or tingling in your left arm, there are other conditions that can cause abnormal sensations in your arm.

Infections

Losing the sensation of feeling in your left arm or having tingling throughout your arm could be caused by an infection. According to a Brazilian medical journal, the adult T-cell lymphoma virus type 1 (HTLV-1) can cause numbness and pain in the arms or legs as well as an overactive bladder.16

Toxins

Consuming or breathing in toxic substances can cause nerve damage that causes tingling, numbness, or pain. According to Medscape, some toxins can cause a burning or crawling sensation in the arms, hands, legs, or feet.17

Disease

Some diseases that affect the blood vessels in the arms can cause a tingling along with numbness in the right arm or left arm. Dr. Laurence Knott on Patient.info reports that Buerger’s disease causes inflammation in blood vessels that results in numbness or tingling in your arms.18

Autoimmune disorders

Nerve damage that results in tingling and loss of feeling in one or both arms can be due to an autoimmune disorder. For example, Johns Hopkins Clinic says that Sjogren’s syndrome can cause numbness and weakness in the arms.19

Heart Attack and Left Arm Pain

Numbness in your left arm could be one of the many symptoms of a heart attack. Because your heart is located on the left side of your body, cardiac arrest or heart attack usually causes pain and discomfort on that side. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish the cause of left sided chest pain, therefore doctors generally advise that you seek medical advice for all new and sudden chest or arm pain.

Researchers from Harvard Medical say that along with chest pain, a heart attack can cause pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, or even stomach. You may also feel that you have shortness of breath, and suddenly feel like you want to vomit.13

To prevent a heart attack, you should exercise regularly, enjoy a healthy well-balanced diet, and limit alcohol consumption. You should also take steps to lower your blood pressure naturally and shed extra pounds if you are overweight.

Left Arm Numbness – When to See a Doctor

Most cases of numbness and tingling in your left arm are only temporary and are quickly resolved, especially if the cause of tingling is due to a pressed nerve or blood vessel.

However, in some instances, acute sudden tingling or numbness in your left arm can be a cause for concern. This can be true if the abnormal sensations in your arm come and go or you have a constant numbness or prickly sensation in your arm.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend seeking medical help for numbness in the following circumstances:20

  • The numbness in your arm comes on suddenly and affects your whole arm
  • Along with the numbness and arm tingling you have difficulty talking, are confused, or have a severe headache
  • The numb sensation in your arm gradually worsens and affects both sides of your body
  • You only have numbness in your toe or fingers
  • The numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm affects your daily activities

Read my other related articles:

Article Sources

  1. WebMD. Causes of pins and needles.
  2. eMedicineHealth. Shoulder problems and injuries.
  3. OrthoInfo. Brachial plexus injuries.
  4. WebMD. Arm injuries.
  5. NINDS. Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  6. UMM. Carpal tunnel syndrome.
  7. MayoClinic. Thoracic outlet syndrome.
  8. WUSTL. Thoracic outlet syndrome.
  9. NHS. Cervical rib.
  10. WexnerMedical. Arm artery disease.
  11. PatientInfo. Raynaud’s phenomenon.
  12. NIDDK. Nerve damage.
  13. HealthHarvard. Chest pain: A heart attack or something else?
  14. WebMD. Stroke symptoms.
  15. StrokeAsociation. Four letters: F-A-S-T
  16. Arq Neuropsiquiatr. 2012 Apr; 70(4): 252–256.
  17. Medscape. Toxic neuropathy.
  18. PatientInfo. Buerger’s disease.
  19. HopkinsSjogrens. Neurological complications.
  20. MayoClinic. Numbness.
  21. WebMD. Cervical radiculopathy.
  22. WebMD. Recognize Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms.
  23. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Numbness or tingling.
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4 Responses to Left Arm Numbness or Tingling: Causes and Home Treatments

  1. Grace says:

    Thank for the information on different pains which causes numbness in arms and fingers. I have cervical spondylosis and numbness in the fingers. Which also caused difficult in walking and my knees paining even failing to kneel down. I have been on medication and told to puton a cervical collar. Does it means i will take medication for the rest of my life? Which medication can i use to improve in walking and be able to go upstairs as a normal person?

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      Hi Grace, I’m not a doctor but from what I’ve seen in medical websites, cervical spondylosis describes age-related wear and tear that affects the spinal disks in the neck. It is a very common condition and worsens with age. According to Mayo Clinic, sometimes there is narrowing of the space in the spinal cord and the nerve roots that pass through the spine to the rest of the body, and in this case you can fee numbness in your fingers. You can have a look in Mayo Clinic about treatment options, but you will need to discuss with your doctor the best treatment plan according to your specific condition.

  2. Shelly Schwartz says:

    I was laying in bed talking to my husband and my left arm went numb this has never happened before,nothing hurts and my breathing is fine but did scare me. I have 3 injured disk in my back and a nerve that’s wrapped around my lower spine. Do you think that is what caused the numbness in my arm

    • Jenny Hills, Medical Writer and Researcher says:

      It depends where the injured discs are. In my article about Pinched Nerve in Shoulder I mentioned that along with pain in your shoulder blade, you may have a sensation of tingling or numbness in your shoulder, arm, or hands. The tingling sensation may come and go or become persistent. So when the pinched nerve is in the cervical spine (which is the upper part of your spine), tingling is felt in the scapula (shoulder blade) and the arm. When the disk problem is in your lower spine (lumbar spine) and puts pressure on a nerve root, it can cause pain that radiates down the back of your leg.

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