9 Reasons For Why Am I Not Able To Lift With My Left Hand

Did this ever happen to you when you woke up one day and found yourself unable to move your hands? Or you could barely lift them overhead? This is a prevalent thing people visit their doctors for. They often ask why am I not able to lift with my left hand?

It can be anything, an injury you got while playing tennis, while weight-lifting, or maybe because you hurt yourself during a workout a few days ago. Hence, knowing the distinct cause of such inconvenience should be figured out first.

It is inevitable to note that physical trauma or sudden accidents can’t always be deduced as the most apparent reason you can’t lift with your left or right arm. There might be other unrecognized underlying conditions unrelated to any injury, rather affecting your cardiovascular system.

Let’s have a look at some of the possible causes that you should be concerned about!

Why Am I Not Able To Lift With My Left Hand?

There can be numerous reasons why you cannot lift with your left hand or your right hand. It can be something as severe as a heart problem or just a simple strain from any recent wearying activity. However, this can also occur due to complications from some chronic diseases or arthritis.

Sprains or strains

This is a pretty common occurrence, and maybe there isn’t anybody who never had their wrist or ankle sprained. Any tear or stretch on a ligament within a joint is called a sprain, which happens while falling or hitting any hard surface.

why am i not able to lift with my left hand

A strain is a twisted muscle or tendon when you lift an object by overstressing your muscles. You will have pain, swelling, and trouble moving your hand.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A Carpal tunnel is a passage on the palmar surface of the wrist that joins the forearm and hand. A condition caused for compression of the medial nerves in this carpal tunnel is carpal tunnel syndrome, associated with numbness and tingling sensation in the thumb to ring finger.

The risk factor involves wrist fracture or arthritis that affects the wrist bones, obesity, thyroid disorder. Studies say, a subtle link between using computers and this syndrome, although this hasn’t been proven yet.

Frozen Shoulder

A frozen shoulder, medically called Adhesive capsulitis, is also a prevalent cause of pain and loss of motion in the shoulder. It immobilizes the shoulder joint, a “ball and socket joint,” making it immensely troublesome to move your arms because the ligaments around the shoulder become too rigid and hardened.

People with a recent shoulder injury, diabetes mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, or thyroid disorders are more prone to develop frozen shoulders. People over 50 years of age may be affected since their body tissues start losing strength and flexibility. You will find it common among the elderlies asking why am I not able to lift with my left hand?

Rotator Cuff Tear

The rotator cuff is the name given to a group of four muscles and their tendons responsible for stabilizing the movements (flexion, abduction, internal-external rotation) and providing strength to the shoulder joint.

Tears around this region occur when the tendon pulls away from the humerus, the arm bone. So any stress to the rotator cuff makes it challenging to lift the entire arm and causes a dull ache, including popping sound, muscle weakness, etc. Some of the causes of rotator cuff tear include:

Overuse

This is very common, especially at old age, as the tendon wears out due to degenerative tears seen among people involved in tedious shoulder movements, for example, swimmers, professional athletes, carpenters, mechanics, etc.

Bony spurs

Bony growth can develop in the shoulder region, which rubs against the tendon when we move our arm. This shoulder impingement causes friction between the bone and tendon, leading to tearing in the rotator cuff.

Acute Injury

It is lifting heavy objects, falling on your sides, and accidents that cause inappropriate positioning of shoulders.

Reduced Blood Flow

As you get older, the blood flow to the rotator cuff gets reduced.

This is considered the most familiar cause of shoulder distress and immobilization of the hand among adults.

Angina

Now, this is a reason for discomfort in the upper limb that demands attention. Angina is the type of chest pain caused due to insufficient blood supply to the myocardium. Point to be noted: it is not a disease, relatively a symptom of coronary heart disease.

This may feel like tightness, heaviness, and choking sensation in the chest, along with soreness in other regions like the upper abdomen, neck, back, shoulder, and arm. This brings the concept of “referred pain’’ into consideration.

It happens when a painful stimulus arises in the heart. Still, the brain, unable to distinguish the signals coming from visceral receptors, misinterprets the perception of pain in arms, particularly the left arm. Very often, in angina, patients end up asking why am I not able to lift with my left hand?

Heart Attack

When the cardiac muscles cease their normal functioning due to clot formation or damage in the coronary artery, we call myocardial infarction or heart attack. Inflammatory cells, cholesterol, and lipids build up to form ‘plaques’ in the vessel, which makes a blockage inside. This ultimately deprives the oxygen supply in the heart, leaving a severe impairment in the heart.

Similar to angina, we need to consider referred pain when it comes to a heart attack. Some warning signs are:

  • Pain in chest and surrounding areas like shoulder, upper back, jaw, neck that lasts for a few minutes in a few episodes.
  • Discomfort in the epigastric/upper abdomen, which is easily misinterpreted as belly pain. 
  • Left-arm pain followed by numbness and inability to move.
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness, anxiety
  • Sudden hot flashes

Out of all the causes discussed here, a heart attack is the most dreadful health condition requiring spontaneous treatment.

Tendinitis and tendinosis

Tendinitis is an inflammation or irritation of the tendon caused due by acute injury and accompanied by pain, tenderness, and mild swelling at the site and surrounding area. Like rotator cuff tear, tendonitis is often caused by repetitive movements, minor or significant impact from any injury, and is more frequently seen in adults over 40.

While tendinosis is the chronic degeneration of tendons having torn collagen fibers, with hardening, thickening, and scarring of the tendons of a specific site, it can also be caused by physical trauma or sports injury. Some common manifestations are localized burning pain, stiffness in joints, etc.

Bursitis

Bursa is small fluid-filled cushions that lie near bony prominence and joints to allow them to move past one another with minimum friction.

Any inflammation of the bursa sac is called bursitis. It is often the result of repetitive arm movement. This pain usually increases as you move or lie down on your arm or shoulder. Other symptoms include redness and increased temperature at the site, inability to move the affected side.

Bone Fracture

Whenever we hear that a person can’t lift his hand, we randomly think he broke his wrist bone or probably has a dislocated arm.

But this is less likely to occur because often, there is no specific sign of any fractured bone in the arm or wrist, except pain. Hence, you might have a fractured bone and feel normal, although some of you may observe mild swelling and bruising. A fracture causes are falling on an outstretched hand, direct blow or injury, road accident or physical abuse, etc.

However, a fracture in the collarbone may be extremely painful, and you can’t even lift your arms and hand. It is especially found among newborns during delivery and children, owing to the development of their bones. Collarbone injury is distinguished by constant stabbing pain, followed by grinding or clicking sounds when the arm is moved away from the body.

Other rare but probable conditions why you are not able to lift with your arms are:

Pinched nerve: Pinched nerve in the neck region, medically termed cervical radiculopathy, is a compressed nerve that results from sustained pressure applied to surrounding structures of the nerve root. A pinched nerve can occasionally become severe, leading to irreversible damage to the nerve itself.

Herniated disc: There are cushions of gel-like substances between the vertebral bones that make up the spinal column and provide flexibility to our backbone. If one of these intervertebral discs ruptures, it can cause burning pain that radiates to the arm, making it immobile and stiff.

Autoimmune diseases: Conditions that invade the immunity of the body like Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and some other chronic illnesses can cause pain in the neck, upper body, hands as well.

How should you deal with the pain?

A soreness or stinging pain in your body not only affects your daily activities but also impacts your ability to perform simple tasks like washing your hair or even sleeping!

In case you or anyone around you suddenly feel distressed or excruciating pain around the chest with other associated symptoms of heart attack, call emergency helpline services without any hesitation. Don’t wait to wonder why am I not able to lift with my left hand?

Don’t wait. Many people tend to dismiss this indication as abdominal pain and take medicines independently without even realizing that it could be life-threatening. Hence there is no room for ignoring the signs. Doctors will recommend thorough tests once they rule out your arm pain as a symptom of heart problems. Some of the investigations are:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Routine blood and urine tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Further special tests like Angiogram, Echocardiogram

If you have pain only on your limbs that have been persisting for a few days, then it’s not an emergency, but it’s undoubtedly not negligent either. Precise assessment for pain can repair the bones and surrounding tissues within no time. Other types of pain, excluding cardiac problems, need imaging tests like X-ray, Ultrasound, MRI, or CT scans. 

Treatment 

If you have mild, treatable cardiac problems, then your treatment will include,

  • Certain medications like Beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, Lipid-lowering drugs, etc. hat will relieve the symptoms.
  • Lifestyle modification – walking, exercising, aerobics, etc
  • Weight reduction.
  • A healthy balanced diet with reduced oil and carbohydrate enriched food.
  • Limitation or cessation of alcohol and tobacco consumption.
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But suppose your diagnosis is evaluated to be more complicated than what you anticipated. In that case, hen doctors will suggest surgical procedures like angioplasty, bypass surgery, atherectomy, etc., and to some extent, heart transplant depending on the severity of the condition along with the treatment mentioned above.

While for the other forms of treatable or temporary hand-arm pain, these following remedies are good enough.

  • Anti-inflammatory pain relievers like Ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc.  
  • Heat compression on the affected part to minimize the pain.
  • Light stretches for hand, back, arms before a workout or heavy work. 
  • Limitation for shoulder activities.
  • A cast sling prevents pain and deterioration relapse or elastic bandage (depending on the severity) from prohibiting relapse of pain and deterioration.
  • Physio-therapy and rehabilitation.

FAQs

Why can’t I lift with my left hand after sleeping on it?

It happens when you sleep in a position that puts sustained pressure on a nerve in the left hand.

Why does my arm hurt while stretching them overhead? 

Having stiff shoulder muscles makes stretching painful, especially during yoga or exercises. It would help if you flexed your muscles by doing slow motion and easy stretching.

When should I worry about the pain in my limbs?

Pain in limbs without any manifestation in the chest region that develops suddenly and rapidly increases over the passing minute is anxious about.

Why does my left arm hurt even after having no injury? 

It’s probably because there is an undetected cardiac problem in your body that needs to be treated.

Conclusion

As the old saying goes, “Prevention is better than cure” you should try to do your daily chores with utmost care. Nobody wants to lay down in bed for 14 – 21 days with a cast on their arm. You should also note that not all activities are suitable for people of every age and health condition. You will easily hurt yourself if you do something beyond your physical ability and strength.

Day laborers and construction workers are more vulnerable to such injuries and loss of motion in an occupational stand. Physicians should guide them accordingly, and they should monitor their activities to avoid getting injured. Are you still worried about why am I not able to lift with my left hand?

If you cannot lift with your arms or have mild to moderate to severe pain in your upper body that remains unresolved within a few hours, contact the hospital. Make sure to get yourself treated until you recover completely. And don’t forget that your health should ALWAYS be your priority.

Afrida Nabiha

I am a dedicated medical student of Armed Forces Medical College, Bangladesh, and interested in the vast evolutions of medical science and have chosen it as a passion over the profession. I want to pursue a specialization in Oncology- an area of medicine that deals with the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. Communicating with people about everyday health issues is something I enjoy and consider my responsibility as a health professional. And I believe writing out ideas is the best way to express them while engaging with others.

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