Tingling sensation in the left arm is referred to as paresthesia in more scientific terms and includes all similar complaints like pins and needles, burning sensation, pricking sensation or numbness. The primary cause of all these abnormal sensations is altered level of nervous activity in the nerves supplying left arm or forearm.
The tingling sensation of left arm is generally ignored by most individuals as a trivial symptom of excessive workout, fatigue or muscle spasm; however, in some cases, the apparently harmless symptom may be an initial presentation of a complex medical problem that may require emergent and urgent medical attention.
Causes and Treatments of Tingling in Left Arm
Most popular causes of tingling sensation in the left arm are:
1. Poor Blood Circulation
Poor blood circulation presents as tingling sensation in addition to cold and clammy hands, difficulty in maintaining quick movements from left arm and development of venous stasis ulcers in forearm or hands due to poor availability or oxygenated blood and pressure of stagnant blood on the vessel walls. It is most frequently seen in the setting of atherosclerosis due to aging or other vascular disorders. It can also be caused by tight outfit or jewelries.
You can improve the circulation of blood across your left arm by generalized physical activities that improve the overall blood circulation via heart. In addition, you can always focus on exercises that target your left arm by lifting weights, climbing, hiking, swimming and similar activities. Alternating between hot and cold compress can also increase the circulation level of blood.
2. Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Certain congenital defects like cervical rib or acquired conditions like poor posture, cervical tumor or growth in the neck region can lead to thoracic outlet syndrome that is marked by weakness of grip, changes in the color of face (redness or swelling), tingling and lack of pulsations in the arm and appearance of dark spots in the areas of static blood circulation due to pressure of tumor or cervical rib.
Individuals who perform persistent and repetitive physical activities can also develop symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome due to tearing of tissues. Athletes like professional basketball players, swimmers require lifestyle modification to control the disabling symptoms such as tingling in left arm. Besides, you can relieve the symptoms by maintaining food posture and practicing relaxation techniques.
3. Heart Attack
The most common cause of heart attack is ischemic heart disease due to vascular defects (development of atheroma or atherosclerotic plaque), or muscular conditions of heart (hypertensive or hypertrophy of heart) in which blood supply to heart is insufficient to perform normal physiological and contractile functions of heart. Heart attack normally presents as tingling or numbness in the left arm and left side of the chest followed by radiation of pain and weakness to left jaw or left shoulder.
Lifestyle modifications and dietary changes can significantly decrease the cardiac risk.
- Even in known cardiac patients, recurrence of ischemic episodes can be prevented by dietary changes like increasing the intake of low cholesterol diet and intake of antioxidants to fight free radicals and reactive oxygen species.
- Moderate physical activity and meditation along with other stress relieving exercises are also helpful in improving the cardiac circulation and preventing the stress mediated cardiac activity. In addition, seek the help of a healthcare provider periodically and follow your pharmacologic regimen very carefully.
Brain controls all the sensory and motor activities of the body and that's why it requires a steady supply of blood in the form of cardiac output. However, certain conditions like thrombus formation in one or more of the major vessels of heart/brain, embolus (dislodged thrombus) and atheroma formation in the major blood vessels supplying brain can lead to stroke as a result of sudden cessation of blood supply to brain substance. In addition, high blood pressure, long standing diabetes and raised blood cholesterol concentration also contribute to the paresthesia. Stroke is marked by numbness or loss of function of the areas of the body supplied by the part of brain damaged by stroke, including tingling in left arm.
Lifestyle modification, absolute control of blood sugar levels, serum cholesterol concentration and blood pressure control are absolutely mandatory. In case of stroke, immediate medical attention must be sought and treatment protocol should be followed depending on the nature of stroke
5. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Carpal tunnel syndrome may occur independently or as a part of another medical problem. It is more frequently encountered when the soft tissues of the body are swollen as a result of hormonal disorders (hypothyroidism) or physiological alteration in the serum fluid levels (like in pregnancy). The symptoms include pain, numbness, tingling and difficulty in performing normal activities by hand as well as other similar symptoms due to entrapment of median nerve.
Management of carpal tunnel syndrome is dependent on the identification of primary disorder and lifestyle modification to decrease the pressure on carpal tunnel. You can try rotating the wrists and stretching the left arm to relieve the tingling sensation.
6. Other Causes
- Pressure on left arm in the form of prolonged inactivity or carrying heavy weight for long periods of time also affect the blood supply leading to tingling sensation.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency or deficiency of other micronutrients affects the metabolic activities.
- Vascular damage as a result of physical or chemical damage to vessel wall
- Multiple sclerosis
- Side effects of certain medication that affect nervous activity or blood supply to left arm
When to See a Doctor
Abnormal symptoms like tingling in left arm or both arms require medical care. And if you are experiencing following symptoms, you should see your healthcare provider at earliest convenience:
- If tingling sensation is associated with an altered level of consciousness
- If you are developing progressive weakness or loss of motor or sensory control of your limbs or other parts of your body
- If your symptoms follow severe excruciating headache (may be an initial presentation of hypertensive)
- If symptoms are associated with any recent history of fall, assault or injury