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Dr. Abby
Dr. Abby, Board Certified MD
Category: Health
Satisfied Customers: 10330
Experience:  Family Physician, practicing medicine for over 10 years, United States
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I can't raise my left arm over my head. The pain is in the

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I can't raise my left arm over my head. The pain is in the upper arm around the lower shoulder area whenever I try to lift it. I can't swing my arm backwards, but other wise I have rull motion. I have been experiencing this now for about 2 1/2 weeks. I had no injury or trauma to my arm. I use to sleep on it often. Which medical specialist should I seek out to get this examined and what could this possibly be?

Does it now hurt to lay on that arm at night?
Before this started, were you doing a lot of overhead activities?

Dr abby
Customer: replied 6 years ago.
it will hurt if I bend it in an upward position to rest my head on my arm (so not to mess my hair up) when I am laying down. No, I was not doing any overhead activities. I was sleeping in a position with my arm bent overhead as described above.
Thank you for clarifying,

The symptoms you describe are consistent with a problem with your rotator cuff.
The rotator cuff is made up of the tendons of the four muscles that move your arm.
It can become irritated/inflamed or injured for many reasons (repetitive movements or arthritis, for example). In your case, you may have arthritis that was present and not symptomatic until you were laying on the arm, causing irritation.

An orthopedic surgeon who specializes in shoulders can diagnose and treat your shoulder pain.
Initially, the treatment is typically anti-inflammatories and physical therapy exercises. Steroid injections may also be helpful.

Here is some information for you to read if you would like more description:

Feel free to ask any follow up questions you may have,

Dr Abby

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Customer: replied 6 years ago.
I've been sleeping on my arms like this for years. I can't massage the pain or exactly press my hands upon it. It feels like it's in the nerves of my arm. It only hurts when I try to raise it or swing it backwards. The other arm movements work fine. Is this what tendonitis or bursitis feels like?
the classic symptom of rotator cuff tendonopathy is difficulty with overhead movements.
It is also a very difficult pain to put your finger on. You can't just point to one area and say "it hurts right here" and push on it.

The other possibility, if it is a burning pain, would be a pinched nerve in the neck, but I really don't think that is what it is.

The fact that it hurts with reaching is very suspicious for rotator cuff problems.

Dr Abby
Customer: replied 6 years ago.

Thank you Dr. Abby for your quick answers. I will make an appointment with an orthopedic specialist on Monday.


LaTina Brinson

You are very welcome, LaTina,

Take care and Happy Holidays,

Dr Abby

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