Forearm pain can significantly interfere with your life -- particularly if it occurs on your dominant side. Your forearm contains 2 long bones, multiple nerves and many muscles, as well as ligaments and tendons that connect these structures together. Injury to any of these structures can cause pain between your wrist and elbow.
Strains occur when a muscle is overstretched, or overworked. Muscles that straighten your fingers and bend your wrist backward run along the top of your forearm. The bottom of your forearm contains muscles that bend your fingers and bend your wrist forward. Muscle strains cause pain along the affected muscles. Pain may increase when you put pressure on the injured area. Muscles strains are treated with heat, rest and gentle stretching.
Tendons connect muscles in your forearm to the bones in your wrist and elbow. Damage to these tendons -- called tendinitis or tendinopathy -- often occurs with overuse of your forearm muscles. Tendon injury causes pain near your elbow or wrist joints, where the tendon attaches to the bone. These conditions may also cause swelling, decreased movement and weakness. Tendon injuries are treated with activity modification, rest, ice and pain relieving medications, if cleared by your doctor. Physical therapy is also often prescribed for ultrasound and electrical stimulation, and strengthening exercises. Tendon injuries that do not improve with conservative treatment may require medication injection, or even surgery.
Ligaments are strong fibers that connect bone to bone. Ligament strains occur when these structures are overstretched -- typically due to trauma. Pain caused by this injury affects the wrist or elbow joints, where the bones come together. Swelling, bruising and stiffness may also develop. Ligament strains may be treated with physical therapy, however significantly damage may require surgery.
Fractures can occur in the 2 bones lying side by side in your forearm. Most commonly, these bones fracture close to the wrist -- usually after falling on an outstretched arm. Trauma is the main cause of these fractures, and pain occurs immediately. Fractures often cause swelling and bruising, and in some cases your forearm may look deformed. Seek immediate medical attention if you suspect that you have a forearm fracture.
Nerves supply sensation to the skin and power the muscles in your forearm. Nerve injury may occur with trauma, however is more commonly caused by compression -- prolonged pressure -- in the forearm. These nerves are often compressed in the elbow and wrist joints, causing pain along the forearm. These injuries also cause tingling or numbness, and eventually muscle weakness. Nerve compression injuries may be treated with physical therapy, however severe cases may require surgery.
- The University of Texas at Arlington: Elbow, Forearm, Wrist & Hand
- Sports Health: Evaluation and Management of Elbow Tendinopathy
- Hand Clinics: The Epidemiology of Distal Radius Fractures
- Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: Adult Peripheral Nerve Disorders -- Nerve Entrapment, Repair, Transfer and Brachial Plexus Disorders