Do You Have Dead Arm Syndrome – Things You Should Know

By Last Updated: October 28th, 2022Categories: Daily

“My right upper arm and shoulder are in pain, and they’re not as strong as they used to be.”

If you’re experiencing pain or weakness on either of your shoulders or upper arms, it’s highly possible that you are dealing with dead arm syndrome. This condition is characterized by instability in the shoulder, which often results in aching and soreness to the affected area.

Dead arm syndrome is very common among athletes or people whose work involves overusing their upper arms.

If you are worried that you might be suffering from this condition, don’t stress out yourself yet. In this article, we will talk about the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for dead arm syndrome. It’s better that you know everything about it before you conclude you have it.

Part 1: Possible Causes of Dead Arm Syndrome

As mentioned, dead arm syndrome is pretty common among people who are into sports such as swimming, throwing, and other similar activities. They require repetitive use of the ligaments, tendons, rotator cuff and other connective tissues in the bones in the shoulders.

Over time, such demanding activities to your shoulders will cause instability and make you feel a paralyzing pain.

Other sports that make you at risk for Dead arm syndrome include:

  • Baseball – You are prone if you are the pitcher.
  • Tennis – It requires you to exert a lot of shoulder and arm strength when hitting the ball.
  • Volleyball – When you spike, you need to hit the ball with a force from your shoulders and arms.
Baseball Player

Young athletes who have been subjected to rigorous training for the shoulder area may also develop dead arm syndrome. This also goes to laborers who use their arms to lift heavy materials or those who need to hammer and do metalwork on a daily basis. But despite that, it can still happen to anyone with overworked shoulders and arms.

Part 2: Symptoms of Dead Arm Syndrome

The most common symptom of dead arm syndrome is either paralyzing pain to the shoulders down to the arm or unusual weakness. The latter is pretty evident during lifting or throwing with force.

And one of the reasons why it’s called “Dead” Arm Syndrome is because the weakness can make your arm feel numb at times as if it were dead or not part of your body. Besides the mentioned symptoms, there are others that can further give clues whether or not you have dead arm syndrome.

  • Throwing is not as forceful as before.

  • There is a prolonged fatigue to the affected arm.

  • Tingling sensations may also be present.

  • Your arm can be stiff more often.

  • Your control to the affected arm and shoulder is also unstable.

Part 3: Examining Dead Arm Syndrome

Aside from observing the symptoms of dead arm syndrome, you can also perform an apprehension test at home. However, you will need someone to do it for you. This test aims to confirm whether you really feel discomfort in your upper arm or shoulders.

Apprehension Test

Usually, the test is conducted by a physician or a therapist, but if you don’t have access to either of them, you can ask someone in your family to follow the instructions below:

  1. Let the patient sit down or stand straight.
  2. Lift the target’s arm and angle it to 90 degrees.
  3. Then rotate it gently towards you.
  4. Observe the patient’s reaction when you rotate the arm.

This test is positive if you become apprehensive of the external rotation of your arm and if you complain of any pain in the shoulder. If this is the case. it’s highly likely that you are developing dead arm syndrome, and it must be checked by a physician right away for possible treatments or management interventions.

Part 4: At-home Treatments for Dead Arm Syndrome

These at-home treatments can only alleviate the pain or discomfort you are feeling. They cannot completely get rid of dead arm syndrome.

Rest Your Arm

Take a break. This is the first treatment for dead arm syndrome, especially if it’s severe. You need to halt any activities that involve overhead movements. Taking the time for the ligaments and connective tissues to heal can help your recovery and control any further damage.

Ice Pack

Use Ice Packs

To alleviate the paralyzing pain in your shoulder or arm temporarily, applying ice can be a great remedy. It can reduce the sensitivity of the area, giving you comfort as you wait for more effective treatments.

Take Over-the-counter Pain Relievers

You can also purchase pain relievers from your local drug store. Try ibuprofen or other similar over-the-counter medications. You may also ask the pharmacist in-charge which pain reliever is available for purchase without a prescription.

Part 5: Professional Treatments for Dead Arm Syndrome

These treatments provide long-term solutions to get rid of the discomfort and the hindrance of dead arm syndrome. You can take them if you really want to end the paralyzing pain and go back to the physical activities you used to do.

Take Prescribed Medications

When the pain is too much or the injury has been inflamed, your physician may prescribe some pain medications like Tramadol or Oxycodone that you need to take regularly at a given period. You need to take them according to the doctor’s instructions to avoid complications.

Take Medicine

Undergo Physical Therapy

If medications have been pretty effective, you may need to undergo physical therapy. This will slowly help you regain your shoulder and arm’s strength. Your physical therapist will also help you find the best exercises for you. However, the number of sessions will depend on the severity of your needs.

Get a Surgery

If medications don’t work anymore, surgery may be suggested by your physician. It’s the only way you can overcome such a condition. This surgery will involve the repair of the ligaments and connective tissues in your shoulder and can be quite invasive.

After the surgery, you may need to have braces or wear a sling to support the injured shoulder, And you will be required to attend 6 weeks of physical therapy to ensure that you will regain your strength.

Surgeon Operating

But after the therapy, you can’t go back to sports and demanding activities right away. You still need to consult your physician and ask for a program that can slowly chart your course to go back to things you used to do.

Full recovery is expected around 4 months to 1 year after the surgery. This is possible if you consider regular physical therapy.


Dead arm syndrome can happen to anyone who overuses the strength of their shoulders and arms. While most people only struggle with the condition on a mild and tolerable level, it should not be ignored.

You need to have proper management of it and the right interventions to avoid any further issues. And having it treated early on is the key.


There are many ways to prevent dead arm syndrome. Two of them are doing regular stretching exercises or being in the proper posture at all times when doing activities that involve overhead movements.

No. Dead arm syndrome doesn’t go away on its own. You have to have it treated medically if you really want to get rid of the discomfort it brings.