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Arm pain Assessment Questionnaire

Questions Your Doctor May Ask - and Why!

During a consultation, your doctor will use various techniques to assess the symptom: Arm pain. These will include a physical examination and possibly diagnostic tests. (Note: A physical exam is always done, diagnostic tests may or may not be performed depending on the suspected condition) Your doctor will ask several questions when assessing your condition. It is important to openly share any pertinent information to help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

It is also very important to bring an up-to-date list of all of your all medical conditions, medications including dosages, and names of numbers of any specialist you see.

Create your printable checklist by answering questions that your doctor may ask below:

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  1. How long have you noticed pain in your arm?

    Why: to establish if acute or chronic.

  2. What area(s) of the arm is affected by the pain?

    Why: To determine if local or generalized pain and to determine if arm joints may be involved.

  3. Is the hand also affected by the pain?
  4. Are both arms affected and is it symmetrical?

    Why: helps determine which nerves may be affected e.g. painful peripheral neuropathy is symmetrical compared with individual nerve or nerve root disease which should be suspected if pain is asymmetrical or confined to one limb.

  5. Is there a time of day when arm pain is worse?

    Why: can help determine the cause of arm pain e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome wakes the person in the middle of the night ; cervical spondylitis wakes the person with pain and stiffness that persists well into the day; people with thoracic outlet syndrome find it difficult to fall asleep due to pain.

  6. Relieving factors?

    Why: helps determine the cause of arm pain e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms may be relieved by dangling the arm over the side of the bed.

  7. History of trauma?

    Why: e.g. whiplash injury or fall onto outstretched hand - can determine possible cause of pain.

  8. History of arthritis?

    Why: E.g. Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Gout.

  9. Past medical history?

    Why: diabetes or porphyria can be a cause of painful peripheral neuropathy; diabetes may be associated with erythermalgia ; hypothyroidism may cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

  10. Dietary history?

    Why: Vitamin B1 or 12 deficiencies can be a cause of painful peripheral neuropathy.

  11. Occupational and sporting history?

    Why: certain occupations and sports requiring repetitive motions are at risk of causing overuse disorders e.g. process and meat workers are at risk of carpal tunnel syndrome and De Quervain's tenosynovitis due to rapid finger thumb and wrist movement; tennis players are at risk of lateral epicondylitis , golfers and pitchers are at risk of medial epicondylitis.

  12. Alcohol history?

    Why: can be a cause of painful peripheral neuropathy.

  13. Possible history of poisoning?

    Why: E.g. arsenic or thallium poisoning can cause painful peripheral neuropathy.

  14. Where exactly is the pain?

    Why: This may help your Health Professional is beginning to formulate the cause of your pain.

  15. When did the pain begin?

    Why: The length of time that you have had the pain can give some indication as to its cause.

  16. Can you describe the pain?

    Why: Different causes of pain can give different types or qualities of pain. For instance the pain may be "sharp", "throbbing", "constant", "dull", or an "ache". Additionally, different people experience pain in different ways.

  17. How intense is the pain?

    Why: Your Health Professional may ask you to rate your arm pain out of ten. This is a crude measure, however sometimes it is a simple way of assessing how much pain a patient is experiencing. It may help if you compare this pain to that which you have experienced in the past.

  18. Does the pain affect your sleep?

    Why: There are several causes of arm pain which can disturb your sleep pattern. These include thoracic outlet syndrome in which you may not be able to fall asleep, carpal tunnel syndrome which may wake you from sleep in the middle of the night, and cervical spondylosis which may wake you from sleep and cause prolonged stiffness.

  19. Have you recently suffered any trauma, injuries or surgeries?

    Why: Arm pain can be caused by a great many different injuries, including those inflicted directly on the arm as well as those inflicted in the neck or cervical spine. Sometimes an injury may involve a joint or bone, and this can result in osteomyelitis or septic arthritis. Some types of orthopedic and general surgery on the arm can also result in those conditions.

  20. Have you ever had any neck or spinal injuries?

    Why: Arm pain can be caused by dysfunction of your cervical spinal cord, or of the nerves which arise from it. This injury may have occurred some time ago and you may not think that it is important; however it may still be highly relevant to your Health Professional's management of your particular presentation.

  21. Is the pain tender to touch?

    Why: In general terms this indicated inflammation, however in the arm it can specifically indicate tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis, medial epicondylitis) with tenderness lateral or medical to the elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome with tenderness in the base of the palm, and inflammation of the tendons of the hand and wrist (overuse tendonitis).

  22. Do you also have any pain or problems in your shoulder?

    Why: Some causes of shoulder pain such as supraspinatus tendonitis can cause pain in your arm.

  23. Have you ever been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis?

    Why: These two arthropathies can cause pain in the arm, and fingers.

  24. Have you noticed any weakness in your arm, or difficulties in doing anything you would otherwise normally be able to do?

    Why: This may indicate some dysfunction of one or more of the nerves supplying the arm, or of the spinal cord. It may assist your health professional if you tell them exactly what you cannot do, and why you feel that you can't do it. Apart from indicating what is concerning you, it will also give an impression of the level of function you have in your arm.

  25. Have you ever suffered Angina, had a myocardial infarction, or been diagnosed with heart disease?

    Why: Pain as a result of some cardiac dysfunction can be felt in the arm, with or without pain in your chest. This is a vitally important cause of arm pain which needs to be rapidly excluded.

  26. Have you noticed any lumps, masses or a change in the shape of your arm or armpit?

    Why: Rarely, arm pain can be caused by a bone tumour such as osteosarcoma. A lump may also be the result of swelling of one of your lump nodes (lymphadenopathy) or lymph node inflammation (lymphadenitis). Your lymph nodes may become larger as a result of local skin infections (cellulitis, erysipelas), systemic infections (syphilis), or malignancies/cancers.

  27. Have you noticed any swelling of your arm?

    Why: This may indicate inflammation, vascular obstruction or lymphatic obstruction. A cause of vascular obstruction is axillary vein thrombosis, and a cause of lymphatic obstruction is surgical axillary clearance/lymph node clearance which is performed in breast surgery.

  28. Do you have any pain in your armpit?

    Why: This may indicate lymphadenitis of the axillary lymph glands, or it may indicate a vascular disorder such as axillary vein thrombosis. Axillary vein thrombosis requires urgent treatment and is more common in painters, those who play basketball, or anyone who holds their arms above their head for prolonged periods of time.

  29. Do you smoke cigarettes?

    Why: Cigarette smoking can cause lung cancer, and some lung tumors can cause dysfunction of the nerves supplying the arm (pancoast tumor) and so result in arm pain.

  30. Have you been experiencing fevers?

    Why: This can indicate a serious infection such as septic arthritis or osteomyelitis.

  31. Do you have any loss of sensation in your arm, arm numbness, or "pins and needles"?

    Why: This can indicate a disorder which is affecting a specific nerve or group of nerves. It may assist your health professional if you tell them exactly where you are experiencing these symptoms.

  32. Have you got any pain or problems in other limbs, or in other areas?

    Why: There are several systemic conditions which can result in arm pain and pain in other places. These can include polymylagia rheumatica; a vascular disorder which can cause muscle aches, morning stiffness and tends to occur more with increasing age.

  33. Have you ever been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus?

    Why: This is a condition which can result in arm pain, as well as abnormal sensation.

  34. Have you ever been tested for diabetes?

    Why: Diabetes can cause arm pain as well as many other more serious health disorders, but it is not always diagnosed. Thus your health professional may advise testing you for it to see if you have it.

  35. Have you ever been diagnosed with any thyroid disorder?

    Why: hypothyroidism can cause arm pain as a result of a type of carpal tunnel syndrome.

  36. How have you been feeling lately? Have you ever had depression?

    Why: Sometimes arm pain can be the result of depression or other psychological conditions. These are two general questions which you may be asked in order to investigate the possibility of you being depressed or having some other psychiatric condition.

  37. Does you child refuse to use their arm at all?

    Why: If you child reports arm pain then this can be an important sign that they have suffered a pulled elbow injury.

  38. Have you noticed that your child's arm is "limp" or that they tend to hold and support it?

    Why: pulled elbow is an injury which children can suffer when they have had their elbow pulled for any reason; this can include such playful things as them swinging between two people who are holding each of their arms, or it may be an indication of a more sinister cause. If your child does have pulled elbow then it is more likely to be limp and be them consciously supporting it.

  39. Do you ever notice that you get your arm pain in response it being exposed to cold? Raynaud's Phenomenon is a vascular condition in which your extremity/ies may go white, then blue, then red and painful after exposure to coldness
  40. Has the pain been in your wrist, progressive, and causing stiffness?

    Why: These can be features of Kienbock's Disorder, which tends to occur in younger men and may result in wrist osteoarthritis.

  41. Have you placed your arm under any unusual strain recently e.g. Weight lifting

    Why: arm pain may be due to a simple sprain or musculoskeletal injury.

  42. Arm paresthesia?

    Why: if also paresthesia in the involved extremity this usually suggests herniated cervical disc , spinal cord tumor or cervical spondylosis. Other conditions to consider are brachial plexus neuropathy, thoracic outlet syndrome, cervical rib, Pancoast's tumor, Raynaud's disease, sympathetic dystrophy or various entrapment syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar nerve entrapment at the elbow.

  43. Arm weakness?
  44. Neck pain?

    Why: pain originating from disorders from the neck can transmit to distal parts of the arm.

  45. Shoulder pain?

    Why: pain originating from disorders form the shoulder joint do not usually extend below the elbow.

  46. Chest pain?

    Why: angina or heart attack must be considered as a cause of arm pain , especially for pain experienced down the inner left arm.

  47. Fever?

    Why: can indicate septic arthritis, osteomyelitis.

Conditions listing medical symptoms: Arm pain:

The following list of conditions have 'Arm pain' or similar listed as a symptom in our database. This computer-generated list may be inaccurate or incomplete. Always seek prompt professional medical advice about the cause of any symptom.

Select from the following alphabetical view of conditions which include a symptom of Arm pain or choose View All.

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