Kelly Anne Spratt, D.O., Director of Women's Cardiovascular Health at the University of Pennsylvania Presbyterian Medical Center, answers your questions.
Q. Occasionally I have tingling and sometimes numbing sensations in my left arm. I have heard that it is a warning sign of a heart attack, but other than this tingling I feel fine. Could it also be a sign of arthritis?
A. Your symptoms are certainly worthy of an evaluation since, as you mention, "funny arm pains" can be a sign of heart disease. In fact, that was the warning sign my own mother had and ultimately, she had a blockage in one of her major coronary arteries. Besides heart disease, ministrokes can be heralded by numbness of arms or legs. If you have risk factors for heart disease or stroke such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or smoking, talk to your doctor immediately!
Other possibilities for your symptoms include degenerative disc disease (a form of osteoarthritis) in the cervical spine or neck. The nerves going to your arm pass through this area and can get compressed by bone spurs or disc deterioration. Physical therapy can help this problem.
Finally, another option to consider is carpal tunnel syndrome, a problem that usually involves numbness and tingling in the wrist area but can also radiate along the arm. Certain jobs can place a strain on one side of the body (such as left or right arm) and you should consider if you are lifting or carrying too much. Weigh your handbags -- if too heavy, these can, over a long period, lead to strain and that numb feeling in your arm.