The muscles and tendons of your forearm power its rotation, elbow bending and movements of your wrist and fingers. Strain injuries to the forearm muscles and tendons arise suddenly and involve overstretching or tearing of the component fibers. Tendonosis describes a tendon injury that develops gradually due to chronic overuse. Muscle bruising is another type of forearm injury. A combination of treatments is usually employed for forearm muscle and tendon injuries. The choice of treatments depends on the specific the injury.
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A period of forearm rest is commonly advised for both short- and long-term injuries. This involves avoiding activities that trigger or aggravate your pain. This might mean a temporary pause in sports activities, such as golfing or tennis, and occupational activities like keyboarding or using hand tools. Avoidance of pain-provoking activity diminishes stress on the injured tissues and gives them an opportunity to begin the healing process. The duration of prescribed rest varies, depending on the specific forearm muscle or tendon injury and its severity.
Thermotherapy involves the application of heat or cold to the injured area. Cold therapy is usually recommend as initial treatment for sudden, or acute, forearm muscle or tendon injuries including strains and contusions. Application of an ice bag or cold pack several times daily for 15 to 20 minutes per session for the first 1 to 2 days after a forearm injury reduces pain, swelling and inflammation.
After the first few days following an acute forearm muscle or tendon injury, application of heat promotes healing by increasing blood flow. Heat also reduces muscle spasms and helps relieve pain during the healing phase after an injury.
Medication might play a role in the management of forearm muscle or tendon injuries. With acute strain or contusion injuries, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) might be recommended for a few days to reduce inflammation and pain. With chronic overuse tendon injuries, such as tennis or golfer's elbow, one or more steroid injections into the affected area might be recommended.
Physical therapy is a cornerstone of treatment for forearm tendon injuries and serious muscle strains that involve a complete or nearly complete tear. The site and severity of the injury influence the choice of specific exercises employed. In general, the goal of physical therapy is to restore function and prevent future reinjury.
Ultrasound therapy is sometimes employed to treat chronic overuse tendon injuries such as tennis or golfer's elbow. A study published in June 2010 in the Archives of Rheumatology found that people with tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, who underwent ultrasound therapy experienced better pain improvement and ability to perform daily activites compared to those who did not receive this treatment.
Braces and Splints
A brace or splint might be recommended for certain types of forearm muscle and tendon injuries. These devices can aid the healing process and/or provide support to help avoid reinjury during physical therapy and normal daily tasks or sports activities.
Surgical repair is usually reserved for people who sustain a complete forearm muscle or tendon rupture. This type of injury is rare and typically occurs as a result of trauma to the area.
Next Steps and Warnings
See your healthcare provider if you experience persistent or recurring pain in your forearm that seems unrelated to simple muscle soreness. Seek medical care right away if your pain is associated with a traumatic injury, especially if you experience difficulty moving your forearm, wrist or fingers normally.
- Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics: The Effectiveness of Exercise for the Management of Musculoskeletal Disorders and Injuries of the Elbow, Forearm, Wrist, and Hand: A Systematic Review by the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration
- Ortho Bullets: Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
- Ortho Bullets: Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer's Elbow)
- The Open Orthopaedics Journal: Management of Extensor Tendon Injuries
- Family Medicine, 6th Edition: Principles and Practice; Robert Taylor
- Archives of Rheumatology: Short-Term Effectiveness of Ultrasound Treatment in Patients with Lateral Epicondylitis: Randomized, Single-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Prospective Study