Forearm strains: what they are, and how to treat and prevent them

Hand and rehab physiotherapist Juliet Slade explains all you need to know about forearm strains, including causes, treatment, and prevention

How do you treat a strained forearm?

What is a forearm strain?

Forearm strains can fall under the umbrella term of repetitive sprain injuries. It’s essentially an  overuse injury of the muscles that flex and extend the wrist and fingers.

What causes a forearm strain?

A forearm strain could be caused by sports or activities that entail the hand or wrist to be held in one position for a prolonged period of time or from repeatedly moving in the same direction with or without load. A cyclist holding their wrists in extension on their handle bars can fall into this category. Add an additional 8 hour day typing at work with further sustained wrist extension and it’s no wonder many amateur athletes can become at risk of developing issues on the topside of their forearm. In reverse a tennis player may complain of pain on the underside of the forearm due to repeatedly flexing their wrist to swing the racquet

What are the symptoms of a forearm strain?

The most common symptoms reported are aching muscles between the wrist and elbow. They can be painful to touch and may even swell. It tends to be felt during, or soon after, the aggravating activity. A lack of grip strength or general lifting capabilities may be noticed, and there can be a change in sensation anywhere along the forearm and into the fingers. In more severe cases the muscles may even burn in complaint.

How can you treat a strained forearm?

An important component in its treatment is to identify the main pain driver and to modify or totally stop it initially. This gives the muscles time to rest.
A physio can then prescribe a program to develop the strength in your upper body to withstand the load better through the forearms. They may also release the stiff forearm muscles with massage or needles. Ice can help reduce the pain and inflammation, as can anti inflammatory medication. Some people like to wear wrist splints to encourage less wrist use and therefore less use of the sore muscle group.

How can you prevent straining your forearm?

Best form of prevention is keeping the upper body strong to withstand load. The upper back and shoulders need to be kept as mobile as possible to keep good flexibility through the upper limb muscles. It’s also very helpful to try and mix up your exercise routines to change the stressful positions the body can be placed under.

  If you have any health concerns at all or are worried about injuries always consult a doctor, pharmacist or chartered physiotherapist

Juliet Slade is a chartered physiotherapist with Six Physio Chelsea