Forearm tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons of the forearm and is one of the few types of tendonitis that does not involve a joint in the body. Tendonitis of the forearm should not be confused with tendonitis of the elbow or wrist, which do involve those joints.
The tendons that are affected in forearm tendonitis are those attached to the flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus and flexor carpi ulnaris muscles at the bottom end of the lower arm and the pronator tores muscle at the elbow end of the lower arm. The main movement of these muscles and tendons is the rotation of the lower arm and wrist.
Cause of Forearm Tendonitis
The major cause of forearm tendonitis is over-use with repetitive movement. The tendon becomes inflamed close to where it attaches to the bone, causing pain, especially on movement. Secondary causes are injury and older age. Tendons become brittle age we age and so tendonitis is more common in older people.
Heaving lifting is also a cause of forearm tendonitis, either through weight training, work requirements or casual lifting of heavy items.
Symptoms of Forearm Tendonitis
Pain is the main symptom of forearm tendonitis, which may begin as an isolated tender area of the forearm during or after an activity. This pain then develops to be more general and felt at other times. Other symptoms that can occur include:
- Swelling, heat or redness in the forearm.
- Stiffness and restriction of movement.
- Pain and stiffness when moving the hand or wrist, such as making a fist or stretching the hand and fingers.
- Pain first thing in the morning or at night when you are resting.
- Grinding noises on forearm rotation.
Most cases of forearm tendonitis can be successfully treated at home, using conservative methods. The sooner treatment for forearm tendonitis starts, the better the result. At the first sign of pain, you should stop the activity that caused it and rest the arm.
As with many injuries, the RICE method of treatment is the best one to apply to tendonitis. The letters stand for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Rest the arm and avoid any lifting or rotating movements. Apply ice every 2 to 3 hours for several days until the pain subsides. Ice helps to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation which causes it. Compression, using a bandage, will help with the pain. Elevation means wearing a sling which will help reduce the swelling and inflammation; it also isolates the arm which helps to prevent sudden movements. You can also take anti-inflammatory medication or NSAIDs. Over-the-counter brands that contain ibuprofen or aspirin may be all you need to give pain relief.
This treatment regime should be followed until all symptoms disappear, which could take 4 to 6 weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. As the pain starts to ease, it is a good idea to gently work the muscles in the forearm to prevent stiffness.
Gently flex and extend your hand and slowly rotate your wrist, stopping if there is pain. When you return to normal activities, any movements that use your arms should be started gradually and carefully. You might think about wearing a brace for a few weeks until you are certain that the muscles and tendons are able to cope with what you need to do.
If these conservative treatment methods fail to ease the symptoms, you need to see your doctor for a thorough examination and diagnosis of your condition. There are stronger medications and other treatments available, like cortisone injections and, in severe cases, surgery may be warranted.
Prevention of Forearm Tendonitis – helpful tips
- Always warm up and cool-down before and after doing any exercise, sport or heavy lifting. Stretch the tendons of the forearm by rotating the forearm, clenching and releasing your fist and flexing and extending the wrist.
- If you have had a break from activity or work, start back gradually to allow your body to adjust to full activity again. It’s a good idea to ice the tendons after sport or work for a week or two.
- If you are into weight training, alternate with other types of exercise to allow the muscles and tendons to heal between sessions. Avoid weight training if your muscles are sore.
Unfortunately, once you have had forearm tendonitis, you are prone to recurrences. These helpful tips for the prevention of forearm tendonitis will help you avoid future bouts.