arm pain

Have you been trying to convince yourself that your symptom pair of a racing heart and arm pain is anxiety rather than a heart problem?

Pain in the arm has many potential causes, and one is a heart problem. This can be either a heart attack or angina.

Angina is a syndrome caused by diseased coronary arteries. The two most common symptoms are chest pain/pressure and shortness of breath.

However, an attack of angina can also cause arm and jaw pain, even nausea. Angina pectoris is not a heart attack; it’s a symptom group of coronary artery disease.

Sudden chest pain with pain shooting down the left arm is highly suspicious for a heart attack.

But what if there’s no chest pain and all you have is a racing heart – a fast pulse in the absence of exertion or fear – and with it is a strange ache in your arm?

It would be nice to know that anxiety can easily explain this away. But it just isn’t like that.

“If the heart races for any reason, usually as a result exercise, this is normally unassociated with pains in any location,” says Morton Tavel, MD, Clinical Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Indiana University School of Medicine, and author of “Health Tips, Myths and Tricks: A Physician’s Advice.”

“The presence of arm pain under such circumstances suggests that there may be obstruction in one or more arteries that supply blood to the heart muscle, with the pains resulting from the increased circulatory requirements that cannot be met by the rapidly beating heart,” explains Dr. Tavel.

“This type of discomfort always requires professional evaluation.”

Anxiety Elevates Heart Rate

“Anxiety, in itself, can cause the heart to race, and, if the arteries are obstructed as noted above, this could also cause arm pain by the same mechanism,” says Dr. Tavel.

“Anxiety, in the absence of a cardiac disorder, is seldom a cause of arm pain.

“Anxiety in the absence of obstructed cardiac blood flow may also rarely produce pains in virtually any location for uncertain reasons. Such pains are usually more widespread and not limited to a single limb.”

So if you’ve been having a fast heartbeat, feelings of anxiety and a concurrent unexplained aching in your arm – you need to get your ticker checked.

Look at this for what it is: You’re trying to convince yourself that anxiety causes pain in one arm. Come on.

Lots of things cause this symptom, but do you really believe that anxiety does? And if your heart rate is above 100 in the absence of exercise or emotional stress, this is all the more reason to see your doctor.

morton tavel, MD

Dr. Tavel’s medical research includes over 125 publications, editorials and book reviews in peer-reviewed national medical journals. He was formerly director of the cardiac rehabilitation program at St. Vincent Hospital in Indiana.