Forearm Tendonitis and Barbell Curls

Forearm tendonitis is the inflammation, irritation and swelling of the tendons in the forearm. This can affect the tendons in the wrist and elbow which result in pain in your forearms. The repetitive motion of bicep curls may cause tendonitis, especially if your form is not correct or you are attempting to lift weights that are too heavy for your fitness level.

Use correct form when performing biceps curls to prevent forearm tendonitis. (Image: Getty Images/Inti St Clair)


You may experience forearm pain when curling due to tendonitis, or inflammation in the tendons, due to repetitive motion or overuse from lifting weights that are too heavy. The sooner you diagnose and treat tendonitis, the greater the chances for a full recovery and return to strength.

Forearm Tendonitis Causes

The main cause of forearm tendonitis is overuse. This may be overuse from repetition or strain due to lifting weights that are too heavy. Other causes may include using incorrect form when doing a bicep curl or other weight lifting exercise or from using quick and jerky movements when lifting.

In some cases, tendonitis may develop due to causes unrelated to lifting such as an infection, rheumatoid arthritis or gout.

Symptoms of Tendonitis

In addition to forearm pain when curling, other symptoms of tendonitis may also include swelling or redness around the affected joint. There may also be heat around the injured tendons.

The location of the pain may vary depending on the affected tendons. For example, bicipital tendinitis affects the tendon at the front of the shoulder and causes pain in the shoulder as well as the forearm. Tennis elbow affects the tendon on the outside of the elbow and causes pain that may travel from the elbow to the forearm.

Your doctor can usually diagnose tendonitis based on a forearm exam, but in some cases, additional testing may be required. An X-ray, ultrasound or MRI may help the doctor rule out other injuries and determine the extent of damage to your tendons.


See a doctor immediately if the pain in your the forearm when lifting worsens quickly or becomes significantly more red or swollen. The inability to move your joints may also indicate a more serious condition.

Forearm Tendonitis Treatment Options

You can often treat forearm tendonitis with rest, ice and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications. If the pain becomes chronic, your doctor may recommend switching from ice to heat to help the pain. Your doctor may recommend wearing a splint or brace to support the affected tendons and joints as they heal.

In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend corticosteroid injections or physical therapy. Surgery is rarely required but may be necessary if the tendon is severely damaged.

Preventing Tendonitis When Lifting

Prevent tendonitis and pain in the forearm when lifting by using proper form when performing a bicep curl. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the barbell with your palms shoulder width apart and facing forward. Lift the barbell to your shoulders by bending your elbows, then slowly lower back to the starting position. Keep your upper arms stationary and close to your side.

Lift weights that are appropriate for your fitness level and avoid clenching the barbell too tightly. Consider consulting a personal trainer to ensure you are using the proper form and weight and develop a plan to increase your fitness level.

Warm-up before performing your arms workout and vary the exercises you perform to prevent tendonitis from overuse. Your doctor may also recommend a forearm band to protect your elbow, especially if you are suffering from tennis elbow.

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