Causes and when to call your doctor

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  • Tingling is quite common and is usually related to a nerve or blood circulation problem.
  • Possible explanations include your sleeping position, diabetes, a mini-stroke, or a heart attack.
  • If the tingling persists, your doctor can help you find the cause and recommend the right treatment.

Tingling in the left arm is a fairly common feeling, although you may describe it with a different name, such as tingling, “falling asleep”, tingling, or numbness.

Like the tingling, all of this is known medically as paresthesia. Depending on the cause, paresthesia can range from mildly noticeable to extremely uncomfortable and painful.

In general, tingling in the left arm is related to either a nerve problem or a blood flow problem, but the specific cause can range from something as minor as sleeping on your arm to a major problem like a seizure. heart or stroke.

Below, you’ll find seven explanations for tingling in your left arm and how to treat this symptom.

1. A pinched nerve in the neck

“A pinched nerve in the neck is one of the most common causes of tingling in the left arm,” says Dave Candy, physical therapist and owner of More 4 Life.

You may also feel pain, numbness, or weakness in your arm, depending on the cause of the pinched nerve and its severity.

One possible cause is age-related wear and tear, called cervical spondylosis, when the discs in your vertebrae thin and weaken. To compensate, your body may develop bone spurs to support weakened discs. The downside, however, is that spurs can compress nerves, causing pain or tingling in the arm.

A herniated disc can also cause a pinched nerve. When the hard outer layer of a spinal disc weakens and cracks, whether due to aging or injury, the gel-like substance inside the disc can leak out and put pressure on your spinal nerves, causing tingling in your arm.

Keep in mind that a pinched nerve in your neck won’t always cause pain in your neck – tingling in your arm may be the only symptom.

If the tingling doesn’t improve, a good next step is to see your doctor. You’ll also want to call your doctor if you notice weakness in your hands, fingers, or arm.

It is especially important to seek medical attention if you experience numbness or tingling along your biceps and forearm to your thumb, or down the back of your arm from your forearm to your thumb. your middle finger. The path the tingling travels in your arm can help indicate which spinal nerve is being compressed.

Your doctor may recommend:

2. Heart attack

During a heart attack, a coronary artery is completely or partially blocked, along with the nerves that supply blood to the heart. This lack of blood flow can indirectly cause tingling or numbness in the left arm, says Dr. Sean Ormond, interventional pain management specialist at Atlas Pain Specialists.

Common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath. But heart attacks can also have subtle signs that can go unnoticed or be mistaken for other health conditions, especially in women and older people. Other potential signs of a heart attack include:

  • Nausea
  • Indigestion
  • Cold sweat
  • Dizziness
  • Pressure or pain in the upper back

3. Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes and consistently high blood sugar can cause peripheral neuropathy — damage to nerves outside the brain and spinal cord, Ormond says.

This type of nerve damage usually begins in the feet and legs, but it can also affect your hands and arms as it progresses. Along with numbness and tingling, it can cause a burning sensation or sharp pain in the extremities.

It can also have other serious consequences: if you don’t fully feel your arm, you may have a harder time noticing temperature changes, pain, or injuries that could lead to dangerous infections.

What to do next: To reduce your risk of peripheral neuropathy, you can:

You should seek medical attention promptly if you begin to notice unusual tingling or numbness in your hands and feet, as early treatment can help prevent further nerve damage.

4. Transient ischemic attack (mini-stroke)

A transient ischemic attack (TIA), also called a mini-stroke, can cause temporary tingling in your limbs, including your left arm.

TIAs occur when a blockage temporarily disrupts blood flow to the brain. Unlike a stroke, which often has serious and long-lasting repercussions, the symptoms of a TIA usually only last a few minutes – they come on suddenly and usually disappear within an hour to a day.

Along with tingling, weakness, or numbness in your arm, a TIA can cause:

  • Scrambled or unclear speech
  • Difficulty understanding the speech of others
  • Balance problems and lack of coordination
  • Double vision, blurred vision, or temporary vision loss

If you experience symptoms of TIA, you should call 911 or go to the emergency room immediately for an evaluation.

Your doctor may prescribe blood thinners like aspirin to help prevent blood clots that can cause a stroke.

In some cases, your healthcare team may recommend surgery to clear your carotid artery of plaques that can lead to stroke, either by:

  • Endarterectomy: The surgeon will make an incision, remove the plaques and close the artery.
  • Angioplasty: The surgeon inserts a small mesh tube, called a stent, into the artery to keep it clear and open.

5. Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome can develop due to compression of the median nerve, which gives sensation to parts of your hand.

“Carpal tunnel syndrome is usually caused by repetitive use of the hands like manual labor, typing, excessive cell phone use, or working on an assembly line,” says Candy.

With carpal tunnel syndrome, you will primarily feel tingling or numbness in your thumb, index and middle finger, usually on one side of your body, but you may also experience tingling and pain that travels up your fore- arms.

What to do next: A healthcare professional can diagnose carpal tunnel syndrome and recommend treatment, which may include:

  • A wrist splint: When worn at night, a splint keeps your wrist straight, putting less pressure on the median nerve.
  • Steroid injections: Cortisone and other steroids can help relieve inflammation and swelling in your wrist tendons, which reduces median nerve compression.
  • Surgery: Carpal tunnel release, a brief outpatient surgery, involves a surgeon cutting the ligament in the wrist that compresses the median nerve – most people will be back to normal activities within four to six weeks.

6. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system – the brain and spinal cord – that affects nearly one million people in the United States.

In MS, damage and deterioration to the myelin sheath, or lining of your nerves, can cause a wide range of symptoms. Tingling in the arm is often an early symptom, but unexplained tingling in the arm does not always suggest MS.

With MS, you’ll likely also experience numbness and tingling in your legs, chest, and face, not just your left arm.

What to do next: It’s a good idea to make an appointment with a healthcare professional if you experience tingling in your arm along with other common initial symptoms of MS, such as:

  • Muscular weakness
  • Balance issues
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Vision problems, including blurred or double vision or loss of color vision, especially when these problems only affect one eye

There is no cure for MS. Treatment focuses on managing symptom flare-ups with medications like glucocorticoids and physical or occupational therapy to help maintain mobility and function. Medicines that alter the activity of the immune system can also help reduce inflammation and slow the progression of MS.

7. How you sleep

Tingling in your left arm may also be related to your sleeping position.

Certain sleeping positions can compress nerves in your arm or neck at night. For example, this can happen if you:

  • Sleep with your arm bent or your hand in a fist
  • Rest your head on your arm while you sleep
  • Sleep on your stomach
  • Sleep on your side without supporting your arm

What to do next: If you constantly wake up with tingling in your arms, it may help to try a different sleeping position. To find a more comfortable sleeping position, try:

  • Keeping your hand flat on a pillow, rather than closed in a fist
  • Sleep on your back with your arms along your body or on pillows. This is the best position to support nerves in your neck and arm that can cause tingling.
  • Sleep on your side with a pillow in front of you to support your arm and help keep your wrist and fingers straight.
  • Place a pillow under your knee on the side you face when sleeping on your stomach. This will relieve some of the pressure on your neck.

Insider’s Takeaways

Tingling in the left arm is a common sensation. If it happens once in a while but goes away on its own, you probably have nothing to worry about.

However, you will need to watch out for tingling in your arm that keeps coming back, manifesting itself in other symptoms, or getting worse over time.

This type of tingling may suggest an underlying health issue, so you’ll want to schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. They can help determine the cause of the tingling and offer more advice on treatment options.

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