Why does your arm hurt after eating?
Arm pain after eating is usually a referred pain, which means the location of the pain is not the same as the location of the underlying health issue.
In most cases, issues with the heart or a digestive organ (most often the gallbladder) cause arm pain.
The most likely trigger food is fat, but sugar might also cause symptoms.
Arm pain and a sharp chest or stomach pain might indicate a serious medical condition!
Arm pain after eating and heart problems
A large, heavy meal might cause heart issues and arm pain is a possible symptom of that. According to this study, the risk of a heart attack may increase by about four times within two hours after a very heavy meal.
Heart problems usually trigger left arm and left chest pain after eating. Sometimes pain in both arms might be experienced.
It is important to be aware of the other symptoms (see below) that heart problems cause, as if they occur together with arm pain, you might need emergency medical help!
The typical symptoms of a heart attack are:
- sharp chest pain around the middle or left side
- shortness of breath
- pain radiating into the arm(s), shoulder(s), jaw, neck, or back
It is important to know that a heart attack can cause pain in both arms, not only in the left arm, and sometimes people don’t experience chest pain at all.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms together with arm pain, you need immediate medical assistance!
Heart attack is not the only cardiovascular problem that can cause arm pain.
Angina is another common heart-related cause of arm pain after eating. We talk about angina when your heart doesn’t get enough oxygen-rich blood.
This might happen after a large, heavy meal when your heart works hard to pump enough blood into the gut to help digestion.
Symptoms are similar to heart attack symptoms. You might feel pain in the left or both arms during an angina attack.
Arm pain after eating and the gallbladder
Gallbladder problems, like inflammation of the gallbladder or gallstones, are a common cause of right arm pain after having a meal.
The gallbladder helps in the digestion of fat, so symptoms are usually triggered after fatty meals.
Since the gallbladder is on the right side of the abdomen, the pain is usually felt on the right side of the body. Commonly, gallbladder pain radiates into the right shoulder, right arm, right chest, and back.
Pain caused by the gallbladder can last from 20 minutes to a few hours.
Gallbladder problems can be very severe and might require immediate medical help. These are the symptoms you should watch out for:
- sudden, intense pain in the upper right abdomen
- pain in the right shoulder, right arm, or between the shoulder blades
- fever and chills
- skin and whites of the eyes get yellow (jaundice)
Can acid reflux cause arm pain?
Acid reflux happens when stomach acids flow back into the food pipe, irritating the lining of the esophagus and causing a burning sensation in the chest (called heartburn).
Sometimes the chest pain caused by a reflux episode can radiate into other parts of the body, like the back, shoulders, or arms. However, arm pain after eating is an atypical symptom of acid reflux.
Typical acid reflux symptoms are:
- chest pain, heartburn
- sour taste in the mouth
- symptoms get worse when lying down
Can food allergies cause arm pain?
Food allergy is an abnormal response of the immune system to certain nondangerous foods.
Common food allergens are tree nuts, eggs, milk, soy, peanut, wheat, fish, etc. People can be allergic to a wide variety of foods.
Food allergies can cause joint pain anywhere in the body: back, chest, arms, neck, abdomen, leg. So food allergies might trigger arm pain.
Other common symptoms are:
- runny nose
- itchy eyes
- skin rash
- breathing problems
- tightness of throat
- stomach pain
Allergy symptoms usually occur right after eating or getting in contact with the allergen.
While most symptoms are mild, allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which requires immediate medical help!
Arm pain after eating fatty foods
Fat is very hard to digest. Too much fat puts enormous pressure on your entire digestive system, making it work overtime. Any existing medical problem in the digestive tract might trigger symptoms after eating too much fat.
Your heart also needs to pump more blood into your gut, which might cause cardiovascular problems.
Stomach pain, right arm, and right shoulder pain after eating greasy food are the typical symptoms of gallbladder problems.
Chest pain, left arm, and left shoulder pain usually indicates heart attack or angina.
Fatty food might also trigger acid reflux episodes, however, as mentioned above, arm pain is not a typical symptom of acid reflux.
If you are experiencing sharp pain in the stomach or chest together with pain in one or both arms, you might need immediatate medical help!
Arm pain after eating sugar
Too much added sugar = inflammation. Regular consumption of foods with too much added sugar might cause chronic low-grade inflammation, which might lead to heart problems, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, etc.
Just like fatty foods, sugar can trigger gallbladder and heart problems, especially if you already have issues with these organs.
Since most people consuming too much added sugar, if you are experiencing pain after eating sugar, you should take a closer look at the amount of added sugar you eat and look for ways to cut back your consumption.
Arm pain after eating too much
Too much food in the stomach makes the heart work harder so that it can pump more blood into the stomach. If you have already developed any form of heart disease, this might trigger chest and left arm pain.
Your organs – gallbladder, pancreas, etc. – also need to produce and release more digestive fluids into the stomach. The main culprit in this cause is usually the gallbladder, which might cause right arm pain.
How to avoid arm pain after eating?
If you can make it easy for your body to digest the food you eat, arm pain and other eating-related problems are less likely to occur.
- Eat less, more often. If your stomach is not 100% full, it’s going to be easier to digest the food.
- Avoid hard-to-digest and inflammatory foods. Fat and added sugar are the two most important ingredients that should be limited. Fiber and enough water will make digestion easier.
- Digestion starts in the mouth, chew your food well, eat slowly.
How to relieve arm pain after eating?
If your symptoms are not severe, there are a few things you can do to relieve the pain:
- A short walk or some light yoga poses might boost digestion.
- Taking probiotics after your meal might also make digestion easier. You can try pills, yogurt, or buttermilk.
- Lying down might also help to ease the pain. However, if it gets worse, acid reflux might be causing your symptoms.
First and foremost, you should consider the other symptoms that accompany the arm pain. Sharp pain in the stomach or chest might indicate a condition that requires immediate help!
If you don’t know what is causing your arm pain after eating, it is always a good idea to visit a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Finding out why your arm hurts after certain foods might be complicated. The main problem is that arm pain is usually a referred pain: the real problem is somewhere else in the body, but the pain radiates into the arm(s).
In many cases, certain foods are likely to trigger symptoms like arm pain. Knowing what your “trigger foods” are can be a big help in managing your condition. With the proper diet and lifestyle, most eating-related problems can be avoided.