Neurology Community
45.2k Members
Avatar universal

Sudden Weakness in arms

In the last few months I have been getting a sudden weakness in both arms.  It comes on suddenly and lasts a maximum of 5 minutes.  When it happens I cannot lift anything.  I feel so weak that I have to sit or lie down until it passes.  This week it hit me twice.  Before these 2 incidents, the last time this happened was a month ago and before that was probably another month (2 times in a week).  The sensation is from the shoulders down to my hands.  Any ideas?

205 Responses
Avatar universal

Hello dear,
You should consult a neurologist and get  MRI done as there could be several causes for the muscle weakness such as degenerative spine changes,TIA,stroke,neuropathy,nerve compression etc.Are you  hypertensive?You should monitor his blood pressure levels  regularly You should go for a evaluation and get the diagnosis confirmed.
Avatar universal
I have also had the same experience in the past 2 months, I am always relieved that it happens when I am able to sit or lie down quickly.   It started when I began taking prevacid, nexium, etc. for reflux and wondered if it had some connection.  I have been told by my doctor there is no relationship that he knows of and to also see a neurologist.  Have you had additional episodes or seen a neurologist? Any additional news?   Susan
Avatar universal
Well, I'll describe my "episodes". The first was about 3 months ago and it really scared me. Recently I have had them several times a week though not as intense as the first. Even right now my arms are feeling a bit weak - too strange.
The first thing that happens is a feeling of heat in my shoulders that rapidly intensifies and spreads across the front of my chest up to my neck. And it then quickly spreads down both arms and suddenly that part of my body gets soooooooo weak. I have to stop whatever I'm doing, it's soooo strange and intense. I almost feel like I'm going to collapse.  My arms stay weak for a few minutes after while I just try to get myself back together. At first I thought it was a random experience but I am now getting concerned. I'll let you know if I get any more info. Does this description seem familiar?  
Avatar universal
I can tell you, I don't know what this is, however, I also experience this, please check out my post, ' issues regarding my arms'. Thank you!
Avatar universal
I have also had an episode similar. Its scarey and last for a few minutes.  Could it be stess?  After my arms start to feel heavy, I instantly feel weak.  My last incident was worse. I was walking up the stairs and my arms felt heavy.  My upper body instantly weakened and I felt like if I did not lower my body I was going to fall anyway.  I thought I was having a stroke. Couldn't move for less than a minute but it felt like a century.
Avatar universal
I also suffer from the symptoms described.  But mine has been going on for years...comes and goes.  It is getting worse though now.  No rhyme or reason.  Just arms get weak and tingly....have to lie down and pray that it goes away.  It lastes anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes maybe.  I am unemployed and have no medical insurance, so can't go to dr.  Should I be concerned?
Avatar universal
I have had the same symptoms---I have had the same symptoms....I will be doing various things, and at different times of the day, suddenly I will start having terrible weakness in my arms - starting in my shoulders, and like a wave, traveling down to my fingertips.  My arms feel like they are lead weights -and are sort of numb. - lasting about 5 minutes - and leaving me fatigued for about 1/2 hour.  It has happened twice for several days, and then not at all for a few days, then back again.  It concerns me that so many people are experiencing the very same symptoms- and no answers.....anyone?
Avatar universal
Same thing here. had three episodes that scared me.....pain gripping my nack, check and upper arms similar to what is described for heart attack. Went to ER bt ambulance two days ago. Bloodwork, EKG and nuclear stress test were called "picture perfect".
last night was in the yard and tried to rake up grass and could not do it. Weakness in shoulders and arms.
Avatar universal
anyone know what may cause this symptom? my mother is suffering from this.
Avatar universal
  From time to time I get the same weakness in both arms and shoulders. The arms are numb and the hands tingle. My Dr. sent me for tests which included:  EKG, XRAY, ELECTRO CARDIOGRAM, ECHO CARDIOGRAM HEART, NUCLEAR STRESS TEST, 3 MRI'S, ULTRA SOUND CARTIOD ARTERIES, A MRA (CARTIOD ARTERIES), SEVERAL BLOOD DRAWS, AND A HEART MONITOR. The results showed my heart was in great shape. when I get the results from the neuroligst I'll let y'all know. (I am 73 years old)
Avatar universal
2 months ago I was sitting in my supervisors office and thought I was having a heart attack.  I went to the emergency room and did the stress test, ekg, full blood.  Picture perfect like others I have read about.  I had the same thing about 5 years ago, did a halter with no results.  I am 50, in good shape.  For me it feels like lactic acid in the middle of my chest to start with then goes down my arms, both sides, normally last only about 5 minutes.  This time it has been 24 hours with the weekness.  Going to the doctor again tomorrow to dig further.
Avatar universal
I've had the same symptoms for over a year now. I get an aura that it is going to happen like heat and tingling in my shoulders then pain in my chest and under my ribs and my arms go totally weak like jello. they last about a minute bur my arms are weaker than normal for a few hours. I've had chest two stress tests since and they were both normal. No one seems to know what I am talking about. Sometimes I won't have an episode for 6 months or so. If anyone finds anything out let me know.

Avatar universal
Did anyone find an answer to this puzzling set of symptoms. I have a patient with same problems and I am stumped, even after a million dollar workup
Avatar universal
any luck yet? i experienced the same thing. i'm freaking out. its been 2 weeks now. the neurologist have done EEG test, MRI & CAT SCANS nothing yet.
he also scheduled a tilt table test
Avatar universal
I love these boards because I can find people with the same symptoms, but it seems as if once they find an answer they don't post. Or maybe there isn't an diagnosis. I have the same problem and it is very frightening.  I get the "aura" where I know it's coming....then the heavyness in the shoulders..seems actually to be the outer arms, almost as if it were the nerve that runs down the outside of the arm... then to my fingers.  I usually collapse..sit down when I know it's coming.  It happened tonight for the first time in a while...it was a bad episode.it is hours later and I can still feel it..that weak shakey kinda feeling ... Please, if anyone finds an answer please repost and let us all know. Thanks!
Avatar universal
My experience is somewhat different.

Today for the first time ever, I had the same weakness running down both arms towards my fingers as everyone else. However, my main symptom was pain, and it seemed to originate from my head.

Several hours later I feel exhausted.

Any ideas?
Avatar universal
Avatar universal
I have a history of arm & hand numbness and had an MRI 3 years ago that showed some spinal canal stenosis and moderate to severe foraminal stenosis with potential impingement of exiting C-4 and C-6 nerve root... (I guess it's about time I look up what those mean)Still the neurologist thought my problems stemmed from mild carpal tunnel. It's taken me 3 years, but I am going to make someone listen to me, the pain and numbness has gotten so much worse. I have been experiencing the SAME THING as all of you for the past few weeks. It is so freaky and scary when it happens, thank God it goes away! It happened twice the first week and then a few days ago and now, twice already today. My arms suddenly feel very heavy and I cannot grasp anything, and cannot move my hands. I have to put my arms down to my sides and can barely lift them even when I try very hard to do so. It happens to both of my arms and hands at the same time, I think from my elbows down. It feels very heavy, almost paralyzed and somewhat painful. I have a pretty high pain tolerance. What if this happens when we are driving! I'll let you all know what I find out IF I find out anything. I will be going to the Spine Center in my town.  I usually end up waiting to go to the doctor until I cannot stand it and then they dont find anything after a ton of tests and I pay a bunch of co-pays with no answers...Good luck to all.
Avatar universal
I just had an episode that sounds just like what you described.  Both arms, from the wrists to the shoulders, just felt very odd, like I had been lifting weights, and then they were very weak for about 5 minutes.  then everything went back to normal.  

Have you found out any more about what might have caused that for you?
Avatar universal
I have had this kind of episode about six times in the last two years. It has been very difficult for me to describe, until I found this website. I had my most recent experience about five days ago. It is a sudden, temporary bilateral weakness in my arms. I had just gotten out of a van, and I could not bend my elbow enough to raise my hand from my side to close the van door. I, too, felt compelled to sit or lie down. It is a very frightening feeling. It is similar to blood pressure cuffs being on both arms, and squeezing too tight.

I was sent to the hospital, and an MRI of my brain and neck was performed to rule out stroke, tumors, and blockages of the carotid artieries.  The neurologist thinks that it is related to my narcolepsy. I have never experienced cataplexy before, but they think these episodes are similar to sleep paralysis. I have have two sleep paralysis episodes in my life, and they were both horrible. Anyway, it seems that I am having these unusual episodes while awake.
I haven't seen any followup posts from the people who had these episodes. I hope they will post again with any news.
Avatar universal
First had this about this time last year, called an ambulance as I thought I was having a heart attack but after a thorough checkup they could find nothing wrong. All has been fine untill this week, but I have had several attacks over the last couple of days, the last being a few minutes ago.

As I type this my hands are tingling and my arms feel heavy.

It starts in my arms and is quite painful, then it affects the back of my neck on both sides of the spine. After a few minutes the pain goes and I am left with tingling hands for a few hours.

Someone must know what it is, PLEASE.
Avatar universal
I have been experiencing similar symptoms. It starts at my shoulders and works its way down my arms. Sometimes I will feel a burning like sensation in my lower abdomen and it is occasionally followed by a BM. Has anyone had these additional symptoms. I am a 27 year old mom with 2 young kiddies and it frightens me that there is something going on in my body that no one can explain. HELP?
Avatar universal
After reading all these commentaries, I was relieved to see that my 79 year old mother is not the only one having these terrible episodes.  Where can we find answers to our questions regarding these attacks?  We have had no luck when dealing with her physician and after having run many tests.  Is there a website or professional that can help us?  I am very worried.
Avatar universal
I have been having a heaviness in both arms that comes on very suddenly.  At first the heaviness starts and goes up to both shoulders.  Then they start to feel slightly numb and tingling.  Several times I feel pressure accross my breasts.  It makes me weak and only lasts for a few minutes and then starts to subside.  This happened last night around 12:00 am as I was getting ready to go to bed.  I have been experiencing these symptoms for several months.  I thought at first I was having a heart attack.  I have had my neck xrayed because my doctor wanted to be sure there was no nerver damage.  I had back surgery this past September.  Doctor sent me to a cardiologist and I had thread mill test, EKG, and an angiogram.  My doctor wanted to do the angiogram because my brother had a heart attack in his fifties.  I had 60% blockage in the middle artery but he did not feel a stint was necessary because he only does stints if there is 70% blockage.  Everything else was fine.  I have had an MRI and blood tests which showed my thyroid medicine was to high and was cut down.  I had an spell like this at a store a couple of months ago and had to ask for a chair so that I could sit down.  I was feeling very weak and thought I might faint.  That was the last time it happend until last night.  I was thinking that this was all over and attributed it to the high thyroid medication.  I want to know what is going on!
Have an Answer?
Top Neurology Answerers
620923 tn?1452915648
Allentown, PA
5265383 tn?1483808356
1756321 tn?1547095325
Queensland, Australia
1780921 tn?1499301793
Queen Creek, AZ
Learn About Top Answerers
Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Find out how beta-blocker eye drops show promising results for acute migraine relief.
In this special Missouri Medicine report, doctors examine advances in diagnosis and treatment of this devastating and costly neurodegenerative disease.
Here are 12 simple – and fun! – ways to boost your brainpower.
Discover some of the causes of dizziness and how to treat it.
Discover the common causes of headaches and how to treat headache pain.
Two of the largest studies on Alzheimer’s have yielded new clues about the disease