Forearm is the portion of the arm that lies from your elbow to the wrist. Forearm pain can occur due to many causes like falls, injury, fracture, nerve problems, arthritis and more. Pain can occur anywhere in the forearm like hands, fingers or wrist but sometimes pain can be felt in the entire portion of the forearm also. For some people pain is felt only if they use the forearm but for some others pain may occur even without any movement of forearm. Depending on the underlying cause, forearm pain can be managed with medications, exercises and surgery.
Anatomy Of Forearm :
Forearm is made of two bones namely the ulna and the radius. The anterior portion of ulnar is placed near the wrist region and the anterior part of radius is placed near the elbow. Both these bones are interconnected with a strong membrane. You are able to bend and stretch your forearm due to the presence of several joints in it. Again several ligaments are found in these bones for providing additional strength. Three major nerves is found in the forearm and across the hand and fingers also. Blood vessels are present in the forearm for supplying oxygenated blood along with lymphatic nodes.
Forearm pain may range from mild to severe depending on the cause. Intensity of injury or trauma determines the rate of pain. Pain can be felt either in the full stretch of forearm or only in the wrist/fingers.
Causes Of Forearm Pain :
Some of the major causes of forearm pain are discussed here :-
- Injury :
- Motorbike accident can cause major injury to the forearm resulting in damage of tissues inside or even fracture.
- Bending the forearm beyond its capacity can cause a fracture or severe injury.
- Sudden falls can cause severe blow to the forearm resulting in severe pain.
- And sports injury can damage the forearm during defensive movements.
In all the above cases head of radius or ulna gets broken and in severe cases both these bones get broken.
- Over-Usage :
Excess of straining and overuse of forearm can cause damage to its joints, ligaments and muscles resulting in forearm pain. Swelling can occur in the tendon sheath (tensosynovitis), inflammation of tendons joining the medical epicondyle like golfer’s elbow and tennis elbow. In all these cases group of tendons are damaged causing moderate to severe forearm pain.
- Osteoarthritis :
Arthritis can occur anywhere in the body damaging the joints and bones. In this disorder, the cartilages present in the bone are slowly eroded disabling flexibility between the bones. This results in collision of bones directly causing sharp pain. Arthritis can affect your wrist, fingers and elbow joint restricting the movement of fingers and wrists interfering with routine activities.
- Nerve Problems :
Forearm pain can also be caused if there is considerable pressure on the nerve root of the forearm. It can affect the nerves of the cervical spine like C5, C6 and C7 nerves causing sharp pain on the forearm, hands or fingers. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in which the median nerve gets compressed causing significant pain of wrist and fingers. For some people ulner nerves get damaged causing forearm pain.
- Blood Vessel Damage :
If the blood flow to the forearm gets reduced or blocked due to the presence of blood clot it can cause forearm pain. In some cases blood vessel develops inflammation after injury or infection causing thrombophlebitis. Forearm pain can be either direct (like Golfers elbow or tennis elbow) wherein tendons get degenerated or referred wherein problem from another area (like neck or shoulder) can cause considerable pain in the forearm. Often both these type can cause restricted movement of the forearm or in severe cases making it impossible to move the wrist and fingers.
- Rupture Of Biceps Tendon :
People involved in weight lifting can get this kind of pain due to rupture of tendons in the biceps causing sudden weakness and loss of function.
Your GP will first complete his physical exam and order for imaging tests like X-ray or CT scan to determine the intensity of damage and injury. In some cases Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan is to be done for identifying the problem.
Forearm Pain Treatment :
Depending on the site of injury and intensity of injury your doctor will decide on the course of treatment. Starting from physiotherapy and least invasive methods till surgical intervention several treatments are available for forearm pain.
- Pain-killers – Over the counter painkillers or prescribed medications of high strength can give relief from forearm pain. Mild form of wrist pain or ulnar injury can be treated by taking medications.
- Splint – Your doctor may fix a cast or splint on the affected area of the forearm to prevent further damage. You will have to wear it for few days or month depending on the damage. Most of the wrist pain can be cured with a splint.
- Rest – You will be instructed to take complete rest for some days. Athletes suffering from tensosynovitis will have to avoid any activities with forearm so that the tear gets automatically cured.
- Injection – A shot of cortisone on the affected area can give you relief from forearm pain.
- Surgery – If none of the above methods are effective in managing pain and if there is severe injury or fracture, surgery will be done. Most of the forearm surgery can be done by making minimal incisions. The surgeon may rebuilt the joint or add suitable alternative for injured tendon, depending on the damage. You cannot resume activities until you are completely cured. It may take 6-8 weeks for complete healing.
- Therapy – Occupational therapy is given gradually to increase the range of movement in your wrist and inured forearm. You need to go for regular checkups and follow the instructions of your therapist for fast recovery. You will be on recovery phase once the surgical wounds are healed and the therapist will slowly begin with strengthening exercises like ball squeezing and crumbling of paper etc. After a week, you will be given elbow extension exercises. You should not be enthusiastic in doing more exercises at this time since it may delay the cure.
Most of the overuse injury can be treated by protection, resting, ice application, elevating the site, taking medications and modalities method. Tendinoses and nerve entrapment can be completely cured by this approach.
Forearm pain can be cured completely with advance medical technology. But you have to follow the instructions given by your therapist/doctor for complete recovery.