The forearm compromises the lower half of the arm. It extends from the elbow joint to the hand, and it is made up of the ulna and radius bones. These two long bones form a rotational joint, allowing the forearm to turn so that the palm of the hand faces up or down. The forearm is covered by skin, which provides for different people, however, typically the top features more follicles than the underside. Two large arteries run the distance of the forearm, and these are referred to as the radial and ulnar.
Forearm pain refers to any type of pain or discomfort of the arm between the wrist and the elbow. Pain in the forearm can arise from injury or inflammation that affects any of the tissues of the forearm, including the muscles, bones, blood vessels, tendons, and skin. Forearm pain can occur to anyone and is often related to a traumatic or repetitive use injury.
Causes & Symptoms of Forearm Pain
Due to their constant use in almost all physical activities and movements, the forearms may become injured at home, on the job, or during sports. Arm pain can also be caused by a wide variety of problems, ranging from joint injuries, sports injuries, overuse conditions, fractures, and compressed nerves.
Forearm pain may also be related to a general infection, such as the common cold that causes body aches, or to an infection of the tissues of the forearm itself, or in many cases, trauma, such as falling. Therefore, depending on the cause, arm pain can start suddenly or develop over time.
Repetitive-motion disorders are increasing and can develop over time, such as from continually using machinery or some sports, such as serving in tennis or volleyball.
Forearm pain may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition. This condition can also accompany other symptoms affecting the muscles, bones, tendons, and cartilage including:
- Muscle weakness
- Redness or swelling
- Reduce mobility
- Shoulder, arm, hand, or finger pain
- Visible deformity of the elbow or wrist
In addition, forearm pain is associated with other following symptoms including:
- Itchy skin
- Tingling sensation
- Skin discoloration
Who gets Forearm Pain?
Some patients sustain a wide variety of soft tissue, bone, ligament, and tendon and nerve damage to their upper extremities. These types of injuries are directly related to trauma or repetitive stress and account for a significant amount of ‘down time’ for recovery, particularly those sports in which the arm is utilized for throwing, catching, or swinging.
Forearm fractures can also affect your ability to rotate your arm, as well as bend and straighten the wrist and elbow. Due to the strong force required to break the radius or ulna in the middle of the bone, it is common for adults to break both bones during a forearm injury.
Additionally, pulled muscles or tendons in the forearm can occur from one-time overuse, such as an extended period of typing, or using a screwdriver. Athletes in contact sports, such as football, hockey, and boxing, have the biggest chance of strains. Even in non-contact sports like tennis, golf, or rowing, doing the same motions over and over can lead to strains of the hand and forearm.
How Does it Affect You? How Serious is it?
Forearm pain may simply resolve on its own over time. It may also respond to home remedies, such as cold compresses, or over-the-counter medications. In serious cases, however, forearm pain may require treatments, such as physiotherapy and surgery. This is because forearm pain can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Here are a few complications of forearm pain, including:
The forearm bones can be fractured due to an injury. This can happen due to a fall, during a car crash, or from a direct blow to the arm. The break in the bones can occur near the elbow, in the middle of the forearm, or at the farthest end near the wrist. It takes considerable force to break the forearm bones. Therefore, it is common for both bones in the forearm to break during an injury.
A broken bone in the forearm usually causes immediate pain. A forearm fracture requires immediate medical care to be fixed. Surgery is commonly required to help stabilize the bones and ensure successful healing.
Repetitive strain injury
Performing repetitive movements or overusing the forearm can lead to further inflammation and damage to the muscles, tendons, and nerves. This can cause forearm pain and other symptoms. Excessive use of computers, poor posture, and working in awkward positions are common causes of repetitive strain injury. That is why it is also called ‘occupational overuse syndrome’.
Repetitive strain injury can also occur while playing sports like tennis, lifting weights, or doing high-intensity workouts without adequate rest. In the early stages of the condition, the pain from a repetitive strain injury is typically present only during certain activities. However, without treatment, your forearm pain can become constant, lasting for several months.
Ulnar nerve entrapment
The ulnar nerve is a major nerve in the upper limb. It carries signals from the forearm and hand to the brain. It is a very long nerve that can become entrapped by other structures as it runs down the arm. The entrapment of the ulnar nerve commonly occurs in a narrow passageway on the inside of the elbow. This passage is known as the cubital tunnel.
For this reason, ulnar nerve entrapment is also called cubital tunnel syndrome. Compression of the ulnar nerve can occur due to repetitive arm movement or leaning on the elbows for long periods. Symptoms include pain in the forearm and / or elbow due to irritations of the nerve.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
The median nerve is the main nerve of the forearm. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a medical condition that occurs when the median nerve gets squeezed when it crosses the carpal tunnel. This tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist. Compression of the median nerve typically happens when the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed.
This can be due to swelling of the surrounding soft tissues. The most common cause of carpal tunnel syndrome is repetitive activities that involve the hand and wrist, such as typing on a computer keyboard. The compression of the median nerve in the carpal tunnel creates pressure and irritates the nerve.
This leads to symptoms including pain, which is often referred to as the forearm. Referred pain is felt at a site other than the origin of the pain. In this case, the pain originates in the carpal tunnel and is felt in the forearm. The symptoms are common during the nighttime and may wake you from your sleep.
Tendons are bands of tissue that attach muscles to bones. When one or more of the tendons in the forearm become inflamed and irritated, the condition is called forearm tendinitis. Symptoms include pain when using the forearm, elbow, or wrist.
Recommended Treatment & Supporting Equipment
Generally, the treatment for forearm pain begins with physiotherapy that specializes in the treatment of the elbow, wrist, and hand to identify the injury that is the source of the pain.
Your therapy will typically involve techniques designed to relax the muscles in your forearm, to get the nerves calmed down and to educate you on ways to prevent this from returning. A custom orthosis or splint for your wrist is often recommended, since all of the muscles for the wrist are found in the forearm. The last step of treatment is to restore strength that may have been lost to get you back doing the things you want to at work, home, and play.
Other certain treatments that can help reduce symptoms linked to forearm pain include:
- Pain medications – a person can take ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage pain.
- Immobilization – In cases whereby movement is very painful, a person may require a splint or sling to restrict movement and minimize pain.
- Hot and cold application – The use of an ice pack can help to reduce inflammation and pain. A person may also try heat therapy after the swelling has reduced, which will also ease the pain. Products for hot and cold therapy are available over-the-counter, including heating pads and cool packs.
- Splints – Splints provide support for the injured muscles, tendons, and bones that are involved with most causes of forearm pain, whether the symptoms are inflammation, weakness, numbness, or just pain.
- TENS device – Many patients find relief from transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS device). These are available over-the-counter and are used frequently in physiotherapy clinics.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture can provide relief from pain and inflammation in the forearms.
Sometimes doctors may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to reduce forearm pain. Here are some exercise examples to help reduce further forearm pain, including:
Wrist extensor stretch
Hold your arm out parallel to the ground, extending from the shoulder while turning your hand so it is facing downward. Use the opposite hand to pull your outstretched hand down and toward your body, bending your wrist and feeling a stretch on top of your hand and forearm. Next, slightly rotate your arm inward to feel a further stretch. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then repeat 5 times on each side a day.
Grasp a can of vegetables or soup in your hand, holding it out at shoulder height. Start with your palm facing upward, then turn your arm and wrist to where your palm faces downward. Lastly, continue alternating your palm facing upward to facing downward. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Stand up straight with your arms at your sides. Afterward, bend your right arm upward, allowing the inside of your hand to touch your shoulder. If you cannot reach your shoulder. Stretch only as close to it as you can. Finally, hold this position for 15-30 seconds. Lower your hand and repeat the exercise 10 times, then repeat the exercise with the opposite arm.
Alternative & Homeopathic Treatment
In the case of an injury to the forearm, a person can typically administer treatment at home using the following:
Reducing activity involving the forearm will help the injured tendon, ligament, muscle, bone, or nerve to recover. A person should rest periodically rather than remaining inactive or sustained periods. However, a person with sports-related forearm pain should avoid the sport until the pain has entirely subsided.
Massage is excellent for myofascial release, relaxing, and facilitating recovery of tired, sore, or injured forearms. Even if the forearms themselves are too inflamed for massage, massaging the shoulders and upper back can go a long way in providing forearm pain relief.