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Children's Symptoms > Arm and Leg (Limb) Symptoms > Arm Pain
Arm Pain


  • Pain in the arms (shoulder to fingers)
  • Includes shoulder, elbow, wrist and finger joints
  • The pain is not due to a known injury
  • Minor muscle strain and overuse injury are covered in this topic


  • Arm pains are unusual
  • Main Causes: Strained muscles from overuse injury (e.g., excessive throwing or swimming)
  • Brief pains (1 to 15 minutes) are usually due to muscle spasms. These usually occur in the hand and follow prolonged writing or typing.
  • Continuous acute pains (hours to 7 days) are usually due to overstrenuous activities or forgotten muscle injuries during the preceding day. These are most common in the shoulder area.
  • Mild muscle aches also occur with many viral illnesses.
  • Serious Causes: fractures, arthritis (joint infection) and neuritis (nerve infection)

See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If


Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Not moving or too weak to stand

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • Can't use arm normally
  • Fever is present
  • Can't move a joint normally
  • Swollen joint
  • Bright red area on skin
  • Muscle weakness (loss of strength)
  • Numbness (loss of sensation) present over 1 hour
  • Severe pain or cries when arm touched or moved
  • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns
  • Cause of arm pain is uncertain
  • Arm pain present over 7 days
  • Arm pains or muscle cramps are a recurrent chronic problem

Parent Care at Home If

  • Caused by strained muscles from excessive use
  • Cause is obvious and harmless (e.g.,sliver that's removed, a recent shot)


  1. Reassurance: Strained muscles are very common following vigorous activity (overuse injury) (e.g., repeatedly throwing a ball). You can treat them at home.
  2. Local Cold: Apply a cold pack or ice bag wrapped in a wet cloth to the sore muscles for 20 minutes several times on the first 2 days.
  3. Pain Medicine: For pain relief, give acetaminophen OR ibuprofen as needed. (See Dosage table)
  4. Hot Bath: If stiffness persists over 48 hours, have your child relax in a hot bath for 20 minutes 2 times per day, and gently exercise the involved part under water.
  5. Expected Course: A strained muscle hurts for 2 or 3 days. The pain often peaks on day 2. Following severe overuse, the pain may last a week.
  6. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Fever or swollen joint occurs
    • Pain caused by work or exercise persists over 7 days
    • Pain becomes worse

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Last Reviewed: 9/15/2011

Last Revised: 8/1/2011

Content Set: Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker

Copyright 1994-2012 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

Additional Resources:

 How to use the Adult Health Topics pages
 When to call the doctor
 Reviewers of Clinical Content

Disclaimer: The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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