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Overview

Numbness in the right arm can be caused by various conditions and situations. These can range from mild issues where the symptom resolves on its own, to more severe conditions which may be indicative of a more problematic or generalized issue.

Numbness in the arm can be associated with tingling in the same limb as well as pain in the affected area that can refer to another part of the body. The possible causes of a numb right arm will be discussed further.  

Falling asleep on the arm

This is one of the most common causes of a numb arm and occurs as a result of lying or sleeping on the affected limb. The reason this occurs is that the pressure is being applied to the arm and this compresses the nerves that run through the limb. The result is that nerve signals are being obstructed which causes the numbness in the arm.

As the pressure is released, the nerves become functional again and the affected individual will experience tingling until the normal sensation comes back to the arm.

Injury to the arm

Overuse, repetitive strains, and injuries sustained by the right arm can lead to swelling of the muscles or soft tissues of the limb which may lead to compression of the nerves, or injury to the nerves themselves, and these can cause decreased sensation in the affected arm.

Injury to the right shoulder may also result in numbness of the entire arm as a result of damage to the brachial plexus, the network of nerves that branch out of the cervical spine and split up in an area between the neck and shoulder.

Decreased blood flow

Poor blood circulation to the arm results in decreased oxygen and nutrient supply to the tissues and nerves of the limb and this can also cause numbness of the arm.

High blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and high cholesterol levels can cause damage to and narrowing of the blood vessels and these are issues that need further evaluating if numbness of the arm occurs.

Nerve entrapment in the cervical spine

Inflammation, arthritis, or bulging discs in the neck can cause compression of the nerve roots branching from the spinal cord supplying power and sensation to the right arm. 

Here, not only does the arm become numb but there may also be complaints of decreased power and pain in the limb.

Thoracic outlet obstruction

Accessory ribs, located above the first rib, can cause compression of the nearby blood vessels and nerves that supply blood flow and nerve innervation to the limb resulting in numbness.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This condition is associated with compression of the median nerve that runs through the carpal bones in the wrist and this causes numbness and tingling in the hand and wrist. The condition can be severe enough for the numbness to refer up to and involve the forearm.

Diabetic neuropathy

Excess glucose levels in the bloodstream can cause damage to blood vessels and this leads to inflammation and narrowing of these vessels. As mentioned in the section on decreased blood flow, this can cause numbness in the arm due to compromised blood flow to the nerves. 

Myocardial infarct (heart attack)

A heart attack may cause a tingling sensation or numbness in the right arm, even though we've always been told it can only refer to the left arm.

If this symptom occurs together with severe, squeezing central chest pain, then immediate medical attention should be sought to rule out a cardiac event. 

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