When both arms have a sudden "weak spell"

alisande

A month or so ago I was putting half-gallons of milk in the fridge when both my arms suddenly became completely weak and very uncomfortable. It felt as though I had been holding them out straight and trying to hold something extremely heavy until I couldn't take it anymore and my muscles just gave out. It was a little scary, but it didn't last long.

I told my doctor, and he ordered a thalium stress test. It involves walking on a treadmill, and I told the technician I suspected the results might be different if it involved stressing my arms instead of my legs. Although the episode of arm weakness was new, I've always gotten shortness of breath, etc., when holding my arms up. My whole adult life I've had trouble folding sheets and blankets, for instance. But of course the technician did the test like he was supposed to, and the results were normal.

So that was good, but since then I've had three or four more episodes of sudden arm weakness--again, both arms at once. One time I was pushing the baby's stroller up a slight incline, but the other times I was pretty much doing nothing--once at my desk and once getting dressed. And maybe it's my imagination, but my arms seem to be getting a little weaker in general. I've noticed it while mowing the lawn.

Of course I looked up this symptom on the Internet. I found a bunch of posts by people who reported the exact same thing, but the discouraging thing is that despite all sorts of tests none of them seem to have gotten a diagnosis.

Have you experienced--or heard of--anything like this?

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carol_in_california

I had that happen a long time ago. (1989)
I went to put some mail on a counter and I just couldn't raise my arms up.
I gradually got the strength back but my hands were shaky and the residual weakness lasted several days.
It was like I lost the motor control.
I saw my doc, who sent me to a neurologist. Neurologist told me I needed Valium. (He was a jerk.) I refused and checked back with my referring doc.
He sent me for an MRI on my cervical spine and it was degenerative arthritis causing pressure on my spinal canal.
An orthopedic surgeon told me it was rare to have weakness of both arms like I experienced.
I went to physical therapy and it has never occurred again.
Very strange.
I never had the shortness of breath and I had a thallium stress test due to my family history and I had no coronary problems.
I hope you find some answers soon.

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dedtired

Strange because I have had a couple episodes that were similar. It happened at night and I felt a strange, weak sensation in my arms and although I could lift them, it took extra effort and I felt like I did not have normal control. I never did anything about it because I was okay in the morning.

What worries me is that a friend of mine had this feeling as if her arms were very heavy and she couldn't lift them. Her sister nagged her into seeing a doctor. The doctor called an ambulance immediately and sent her to the ER. She ended up having a stent put in her heart. Years before she had had breast cancer and got very aggressive chemo along with a mastectomy. She was warned that the chemo could damage her heart, but she was divorced and raising two sons alone and decided the most important thing was to stay alive long enough to raise her sons. She now is 67 and has four grandchildren. The heavy arms along with a general tiredness were symptoms of an imminent heart attack. I think her sister had just seen a tv show that mentioned this as a warning sign of a heart attack in women.

I never thought that it might be a problem to do with nerves. Wish I had an answer for you. Alisande, are you going back to the doctor?

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jemdandy

If you had said you had a sudden weakness in one arm and maybe the side of your face, I'd very concerned about a transient stroke. However, your afliction seems associted with elevating both arms at the same time. Follow up on some sort of a nerve impingement or chocked blood flow. Possibly a consult with a cardiologist is in order.

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alisande

Yes, I plan to tell the doctor that these episodes have continued. He's very good about referring me to specialists, so I'll bet he'll send me to a cardiologist. The last time I saw him we talked about sending me to an infectious disease specialist if I kept experiencing tick-related symptoms . . . which I have. And I'm supposed to start physical therapy soon for a cartilage-impaired sacroiliac joint. Oy. I'm falling apart!

(I believe I started saying that at age 43....quite some time ago!)

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rphh

Alisande, what you described is exactly what I have had happen for years, while braiding my daughter's hair, putting my hair up in a bun, putting dishes away above my head, I get a weakness in my arms, they start to tingle, and ache and almost feel asleep and they hurt. It sucks!

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alisande

Rhph, that does sound like the same thing. Have you ever had it checked out? Judging by the accounts I read online, it sounds like one of those things that can put you in the poorhouse undergoing tests, never getting a diagnosis.

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gardenspice

Alisande, It sure sounds like a spinal (cervical/neck) issue to me. I'd ask to see a Nuerologist.

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alisande

That does make sense, Gardenspice. And I spend a lot of time in front of the computer, often with my head not in the best position. Until very recently my monitors were too low, and I was craning my neck all the time. Then my DS and I moved them up on their mount (I re-injured my shoulder in the process) a couple of weeks ago, which is an improvement.

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marie_ndcal

You might check out the Mayo Clinic website or Web MD. But I have noticed sitting in front of the computer does bring out the not so good things. I think it is the way we sit, chair, and if we lean forward, and even the glasses we wear. Hope you find out what is causing it.

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chisue

I can no longer change a ceiling light bulb, change the batteries in the smoke monitor, do anything where I must tilt my head back while raising my arms. I *think* this makes me faint because blood flow to my brain is being impeded.

I can tilt my head back *without* raising my arms -- no dizziness.

You may need to see a Physical Medicine MD. Heck, *I* may need to do it too!

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alisande

Chisue, years ago (I'm talking about 25 years ago) I told my doctor at the time that if I tilted my head back to look up, and then moved (I was playing volleyball then), I lost my balance completely. He said this was normal. I wondered if that was accurate, though. I never noticed any other volleyball players looking up and falling down.

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emma

When I broke my arm, I had to sleep in my recliner. I used a neck pillow, the ones with small pellets in it. I started having very bad dizzy spells. I didn't associate the dizzy spells with anything until I could finally sleep in my bed. I still used the neck pillow because I had to sleep on my back. One night I awoke very nauseous and dizzy. I threw the neck pillow out of bed and never had a serious dizzy spell again. I don't what a specialist would say, but I think it was pressing against the carotid artery and partially blocking the blood flow.

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chisue

Huh? Look up, move, fall over? Normal for YOU, maybe! (Maybe nothing to be done about it, so that's why he said that?)

Guess you'll never be a quarterback or an outfielder. (Unless you are willing to move to Chicago.)

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alisande

Hahaha! That's funny, Chisue.

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chisue

These things are probably mysteries to those whose spouses are not diehard Cubs and Bears fans. (A little martyrdom here.)

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Deb63

Look up Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) and see if that sounds like what some of you may be or were experiencing.

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Lindsey_CA

In 1985 I had to have a rib surgically removed because of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome. I don't recall ever feeling like my arms were weak. What I experienced was that my hands would swell up if my arms were more than an inch away from my body because the blood flow was cut off.

It was a rib on the left side that was removed. I have TOS on the right side, as well, but it's not as severe and I'm much more careful about things since I know it exists.

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alisande

Glad that gave you some relief, Lindsey.

Years ago when I first noticed I had difficulty folding sheets or doing other activities that required my arms to be held up, or out, bearing some weight, I looked up TOS. I looked it up again recently because of the above symptoms. But my symptoms don't fit the profile.

Happily, I haven't had the weakness in my arms in several months. Fingers crossed....

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jemdandy

My guess is a nerve impmgement or temorary reduced blood flow, both due to an anatomical positioning of body parts. The causes can be many. Getting dizzy or nauseous from leanimg the head back can be from blood flow impingement of the caratriod arteries (in the neck) or inner ear problems. Having both arms go weak may be a nerve impingement possibly from arthritus in the spinal column. There are just so many loopy things that can be the cause, but it is reason to be concerned and you need a good checkup by the best diagnostician you can get. If any of these episodes were accompanied by one side of the face and.or tounge going slack or slurred speech, suspect a TIA (short lived stroke).

Let's hope for the best that it is a out of kilter back and maybe arthritus and that it can be reduced. At the top of the list, hope for an accurate diagnosis. The problem here is that you may have to go through a series of guesses until the right cause is found. Stuff like this is not an exact science.

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ravencajun Zone 8b TX

In the search for what was happening to me, I had the best luck by seeing the neurologist and the rheumatologist.

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cheryl_ok

I have this happen also...I have a pinched nerve in my lower neck area...going for another MRI. It happened every once in awhile then more frequently. NOw I have constant pain/discomfort in left arm and neck.

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MM_gw

Yes, but I had a herniated disc in my neck. And it was only one arm..since surgery though I've had it on the opposite side but in hand instead of arm in addition to still having it at times in arm.

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Patricia Napolin Barconey

This happened to me for the first time today. I was bending over the coffee table from a standing position to write something on a paper there, when all of a sudden, both arms felt like they were totally drained of strength. My arms also felt very uncomfortable and weird. It was scary - this never happened to me before. I lied down on my bed and rested for maybe ten minutes. Then my arms felt okay again. If this happens again, I will tell my internist. I hope it never does! Don't know why this happened. Good luck with all of you!

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Patricia Napolin Barconey

Oh, I am 72 years old, in good health (I hope), and today's date is 2/12/2016.

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jemdandy

Don't wait to see your internist! Your malady might be something simple and then maybe not. Don't guess - get checked out.

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1healingheartart

I have read all these post and I wonder if what I have could be similar. I have Baisler Artery Migrains. Also know as brickerstaff syndrome. It is a weekness in my extremities that can last sometimes 4-6 hours and takes me a few days to recover from. It was diagnosed by a neurologist.

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hrs19004

I've also experienced brief, sudden onset spells of the same puzzling sensation, as if the energy were draining out of both upper arms. It lasted maybe 20 seconds. Afterward I felt strange lightness in my head, but that went away too. I have had a few episodes like this in the past 2 years, since I started HRT for menopausal symptoms. I also recall feeling something very similar many years ago when I took birth control pills. I'm thinking it could be related to the hormones. Anyone else taking estrogen/progesterone?

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mullensfuneraldirectors

I am been treated with condition called restless leg syndrome, I have heavy arms for the past mth or so , could the condition be connected ..

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fran1523

I haven't got anything to offer but I'm sure it was a scary incident. At our age you never know what awful disease with unknown symptoms may be lurking around the corner. I hope you get to the bottom of it soon. Yesterday I was pushing a cart downan aisle in the supermarket and couldn't push it in a straight line. It wanted to go right and I was trying to walk to the left. It was so odd. Thank goodness my partner was waiting for me in the front of the store and I asked him to drive home.

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Injuredcrowd

My weakness starts with both arms, moving up to both shoulders and upper body leaving me completely weak and feeling really bad. The weakness and bad feelings goes away after a few minutes but it takes my shoulders more time to recover. Has anyone experience such?

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pudgeder

HU-895609057 -- are you our "movie scammer?" If not you might want to add a nick name.


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lukkiirish

Sorry you’ve had these scares. If your stress test came back fine, I’d see a Cardiologist first, because a stress test is just one of several other tests that could still find an issue. Then if everything checks out ok, I’d go see a Neurologist. I hope everything checks out oK!!!

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Amazing Aunt Audrey

I have this too. Most of the time when I lift my arms over my head. I also have a problem with hands jerking all of a sudden, or fingers drawing up like in a cramp. Looks deformed.

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desertsteph

I've had a similar problem a yr or so ago my blood tests showed I was depleted of B12 and D. even with those up now I still find a gal jug of water to be heavy. when I bring them into the house, I split them into half gals of water. Even a 2 ltr of pepsi seems heavy to me. I do try to keep using my arms in order to not let them get worse tho. I also have trigger fingers - both thumbs and index and middle fingers on right hand. and I have a tremor in the right hand - it's worse some days more than others. and my right hand will sometimes jerk without giving me notice. for a number of yrs at the bank, they wrote my name in on a check (or wd slip) and had me put an X or my initials by it - depending on how bad it was that day. A good number of times when trying to sign, the pen flew out of my hand - toward the clerk. was probably self preservation on their part... I try not to use glass glasses - cause I'm apt to drop it.

had testing by neurologist - nothing really found tho. He tested for Parkinson's. that was back in around 2001.

And I do have back problems. right now I'm mostly down because of my left side. Been using a cane since last Thurs. If I'm not better tomorrow I think I'm going down the road to the urgent center to see what they say about it. Super, super painful to walk even with the cane. My dog has been very patient with me. It takes forever to get her outside to potty. Even takes forever to get a container of her food from the laundry room. She has walked slowly with me every step of the way. if she keeps this up, she might end up being one of those 'aid' dogs. She did growl at me once. I think that meant 'hurry mom, I really gotta go!'


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Judy Good

Maybe a nerve neurological issue. Maybe see a neurologist?

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52642

So many comments and nobody knows why this happens. It just happened to me and it has been happening lately. I wonder what is going on. It lasts less than a minute but I am very worried about it.

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yeonassky

I think this like so many other strange human maladies can come from many different sources. Getting answers is difficult but I would keep trying through your doctor and so on. Good luck

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Debby

Do you have a crushed vertebra in your neck? It can cause tingling in the arms.

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Alisande

This is a 6-year-old thread, so I can provide a bit of an update. Apparently it can be related to the brain activity that causes migraines. In my case this makes sense, as ocular migraines (mostly the "auras"--vision changes without severe pain) started around the same time. I still get the migraines occasionally, but haven't had the arm weakness in a long time (knock wood!).

The weakness in my case is very different from any tingling.

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Yayagal

You sound exactly like my niece and it took her five drs. to get to the real reason it happens. It's a condition called POTS and there are ways to relieve it. She only had a few symptoms, one was raising her arms or pushing, going upstairs fast made her feel dizzy. I'm not saying you have it but it's possible. She's doing great now. Her story POTS

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chisue

Yayagal -- Very interesting. Your niece's story didn't say if there is any medication for POTS. ???

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Alisande

Yaya, your niece (pretty girl!) writes well, and her story is interesting. Her symptoms weren't anything like what I've described here (my symptoms were limited to the arms), but I've had CFS for decades and I'll read more about POTS. I assume the treatment involved prescription drugs?

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georgysmom2

YaYa, I had some of the symptoms your niece had many, many years ago..........Extreme fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath. When I went to the doctor, he said I was depressed. Fortunately, I had a neighbor who was more astute than my doctor and asked me if I told the doctor I was on birth control pills (they were fairly new at the time). I hadn't but I called my Gyn and he said there was only one way to find out. Stop taking the pills for a couple of months and then take them again. I stopped taking them, went back to normal and decided that was good enough for me. Never went back to taking them. Many years later, I had a similar reaction. It took me a while to realize I had the same symptoms I had when on the birth control pills and once again it was medication related.

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Yayagal

Imdrno, wow, I'm going to give her this information IM.

Allisande, she had the arm issue too but didn't include it as the pros only listed what she put on line. She didn't want to step on any toes. Treatment

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HU-888166341

I realize these are old posts. I have been having the sudden weakness arm issue every once in a while for the past three years. The attacks last for about two minutes. I do not have chest pain or shortness of breath during the attack. Therefore, I do not think it is my heart. I asked my neurologist about it. He said the nerves in my collar bone are causing the attacks. He told me not to worry about them. It just happened again and here I am on the Internet again. I cannot forget about it. This is not normal. Has anyone on this site come up with a name and treatment for this syndrome? I read the POTS information. I do not have POTS. Thank you!

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HU-888166341

I noticed Alisande says they could be related to migraines. I have migraines. I wonder if these are arm migraines. Sounds weird but I'm desperately searching for an answer.

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Alisande

You might look up hemiplegic migraine. It's a paralysis, or weakness, that comes on suddenly. I believe it's said to occur on one side of the body, but that might not be accurate.

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georgysmom2

YaYa, I should better clarify "shortness of breath". It wasn't like I would get out of breath after exertion, it was more like I couldn't seem to breath deeply enough. I think on some medications it is classified as "difficulty breathing." The first time was about 50years ago.....the last time was about 3 or 4 years ago. I was extremely fatigued just standing in the kitchen cutting up some fruit and had to go sit down and rest. All of a sudden a light bulb went off and I realized this was the same symptoms I had 50 years ago.

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ghostlyvision

Earlier this year I started experiencing the weak arms attacks after lifting something heavy (like a gallon of water) and finally realized it was the new high back computer chair I'd recently bought, it has a molded head rest that sticks out farther than the chair I'd previously had and was tilting my head forward. I fashioned a pillow to fill the space below the head rest and the weak arm attacks stopped, making me think this 'syndrome' most likely has to do with the neck/upper back/shoulders and something changing their natural alignment.

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Robin Flannery

Holy cow! This happened to me for the first time today sitting at my vanity putting on my make up. Out of the blue, my upper arms and across my shoulders just went weak. I had to stop and rest. Lasted for maybe 2 minutes. Then about an hour later it happened at my desk at work. Obviously I started searching the internet because my daughter is a physician but I don't want to alarm her because she is leaving from JFK at 4:00 PM today for her first vacation in a LONG time. No other symptoms but the tops of my arms across my shoulders and lower neck area just go weak... I'm 57, about 25 pounds, overweight but fairly active.

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Alisande

I hope this thread has been helpful, or at least reassuring, Robin. I'm sure in your online research you've discovered--as I did--lots of people who have experienced these weak spells but never got a diagnosis. Several possible causes have been mentioned here. But if you don't find out what caused your episodes, I hope they'll at least go away on their own, never to return.

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HU-888166341

I get an attack every once in a while. It doesn't last long. It happens to both arms at the same time. I will ask my doctor about it during my next check up. I'm wondering if it could be my version of a menopausal hot flash. I am in menopause but I have not officially had a text book hot flash. The attacks are scary. I really need to stop wondering and get an official diagnosis. This thread has been helpful. It's good to know other people are experiencing this same weird sensation.

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Robin Flannery

Oh Dear Lord I have hot flashes several times a day for at least the last 2 years. This is not a hot flash. At least not "my type" :) I was a little scared but after reading this thread, I'm not anymore. It's just "one of those things." When my daughter gets back I will definitely speak with her about it, but she is in Infectious Disease so may not know anything about this. I'll keep you all informed. Please do the same ♥

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HU-888166341

Please keep us posted Robin. I would rather ask my doctor about it during a routine visit than make an appointment specifically to discuss it. It's hard to describe the sensation. I feel nervous when I visit drs. It would be nice to hear a doctor's opinion. It's probably not a hot flash. I'm 56. I haven't had a hot flash yet.

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Deb K

I had bilateral arm weakness on 2 occasions, the first after blow-drying my hair while bending forward, and the second while turning over in bed. I went to my primary care doc who didn't think it was brain or heart-related and suggested a spine doctor. He believes it's pinched nerves from spinal stenosis at many levels. I've been doing exercises for cervical kyphosis. I also have been diagnosed with migraine, chronic last year. The spine doc thinks much of my migraine disorder is actually cervicogenic. I'm thinking he might be correct. Hope everyone here is doing well by now.

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HU-257455969

Thank you everyone who has contributed to this. I had the same episode alisande described last week and it repeated today twice. I was frightened so your comments actually help. I will look up the different conditions mentioned and speak to my doctor.

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HU-257455969

Funny my post was bit poorly written. I should have stated: last week I had the same episode originally described by alisande. And I had it again today, twice. Again, thanks for the recommendations.

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sjerin

I hope you will see your doctor first, HU. I see nothing wrong with your first post. :)

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Sulley

I have also experienced a sudden onset of both arms becoming numb and a tightness in my chest which lasts up to 5 mins. I call them my “episodes”. The first few times it happened I became very scared, wondering if it was related to my heart. My doctor sent me to have my heart checked and after a few tests I was given the all clear.


I have had around 20 attacks in the last 18 months. My doctor has assured me it won’t be anything serious as my heart is ok. He also felt it was unlikely to be anything brain related because it is happening to both arms at once and if it was driven by the brain, he felt it would only occur on one side of my body. He has suggested it could be related to my hormones as I am now in the menopause. I started HRT for menopause symptoms but also hoped the “episodes” would stop. I’ve been on HRT 6 months and I am still experiencing them.


It has also been suggested they maybe a panic/anxiety attack. When it happens I get a little anxious but I don’t feel I am generally an anxious person. The feeling is unusual because I can feel the numbness starting in my shoulders and travelling all the way down to my hands in a matter of a few seconds but there is nothing I can do to stop it and I lose all strength and control of my arms and hands. When possible, I sit somewhere quiet and breath through it. So far I have been lucky, but I do worry it may happen when I am driving.


For each occurrence. I am logging time, date, symptoms and what I am doing when it starts. I am hoping to discover a trend but so far it appears random. I do not experience migraines, although I do have disc deterioration at L4, L5 and S1 which can cause me a bit of pain.


I am comforted that after searching the internet many times, that I have now found other people who have also experienced my episodes. Hopefully this means we can collectively get closer to the root cause and a diagnosis. Please keep us updated :)

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Deb Kleinen

Sulley, the tightness in the chest would be worrisome!


My "episodes" have been attributed to degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine and cervical kyphosis. I saw a sport med/spine specialist who has helped me tremendously.

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Sulley

Hi Deb, thanks for your post. How often did you have your episodes and are they similar to my description with the numb arms? Yes I agree the tightness in my chest maybe worry when the arms go numb ; it’s very unsettling. I also have back issues as per my above post and getting a trapped nerve has been a consideration.

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HU-96956420

My episodes started over a year ago. I’ve probably had 8-10 this last year. It can happen to both arms or just one. It’s very scary. Mine come with a pain in the lower back of my head on the right side. These episodes only last 5-20 seconds and I’ve not had any chest pain, drooping of the face or slurring of words. This may sound totally weird but they started after we got a Lazyboy couch. Is it crazy to think these are related?

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Laura Mae

"This started happening to me 5 days ago, and I have had about 10 episodes so far. I had 3 that first day, then only 4 the next couple days, and I have had 3 episodes so far today. It starts with both of my arms suddenly feeling very weak, heavy, and shaky; a tenseness builds in my shoulders and spreads to my elbows and upper back. I can lift and move my arms, but it takes extra effort and doesn’t feel like I have normal control. The tenseness starts to ease up after a minute or so, but leaves my arms and shoulders weak, sore, and tired, as if I had been holding something heavy and my arms outstretched for a long period of time. This has happened to me both sitting and standing, arms up and arms down. Some episodes are more intense than others.


I am experiencing NO shortness of breath, no sharp pain, no tingling or numbness, no headache or dizziness, no racing heart or chest tightening.


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Deb Kleinen

It's a very frightening episode. So far, I have not had another one since starting upper body range of motion and neck and shoulder strengthening exercises. Have not had any headaches anymore either. I was helped by a Spine and Sports Medicine doctor.

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sylbaxt

I have had three episodes in the past week and I want to describe what it feels like. To me it feels like all of the blood has run out of my arms. It lasts 20 to 30 seconds. Like many of you have said, it frightened me, especially the third time.

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Karin Webber

I have just come off a 72 hour water fast (part of an Intermittent fasting diet). I cannot move my arms up to hang washing or brush my hair etc. It is immediately painful if I do so and it is like my upper arms/shoulders have gone lame. I think it has something to do with a lack of salt for me as I don't think I put enough in the water as they recommended. (The only other side-effect I had was an annoying headache halfway through which went away.) Definitely did not overuse my arms so there is no injury or physical damage. I think my problem is a chemical issue. I hope it goes away soon.


I had the same issue with the painful lifting of my arms once before and it was directly due to working too much at the computer. My posture was the problem. The doc gave me anti-inflammatory medication and I did head exercises and put a warm wheat bag around my neck, and it went away after a few days.

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yeonassky

Get yourself to a doctor and get a checkup. Don't wait! Hopefully they will give you a saline solution or whatever is required intravenously before you have longlasting damage.

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homilit

I get these, too. They're related to cervical problems and migraines. Medical massage helps tremendously. Medical massage, not fluff and buff relaxation. Find someone who specializes in neck problems and/or craniosacral therapy. Mine happened again today while driving because I haven't seen my therapist in three weeks.

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Jerilyn Prescott

I have been looking online for answers to the attacks I’ve been having on my arms for the last couple of months. It started about 5 -6 months ago my arms out of nowhere will suddenly feel like all the blood drained out of them or like someone gave me a shot of extreme adrenaline in my arms they feel weak and heavy it’s hard to lift them but I can move them with effort. But this last episode I had in my arms today I noticed was also in my chest everything felt so heavy, weak, and tight. I went to the doctor for this over a month ago and they had an EMG done and all that basically told me was I had carpel tunnel syndrome but it still doesn’t explain why this is happening and now it’s in my chest. I know it’s not my heart so I’m wondering if it’s some kind of nerves in the shoulder area being pinched? This is the first place I found anyone who could accurately describe my symptoms. Thanks everyone I will continue to keep searching for the diagnosis.

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