Forearm Pain: Common Causes and Effective Natural Treatments

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Forearm Pain: Common Causes and Effective Natural Treatments
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Forearm pain can be caused by injury or damage to the bones, tendons, muscles, joints, or tissue that is located between your wrist and elbow. Depending on where the damage is, you may have constant pain in your forearm or just an ache when you move your fingers, wrist, or arm. There can be many reasons why you feel pain in your forearm. The most obvious cause of pain is some kind of injury. But infections, inflammation, arthritis, or a problem with the nerves in your hand, upper arm or forearm can also be a source of aches and pains.

Because we need our hands to get most things done, forearm pain can have a great impact on your daily activities. Knowing how to relieve aches and pains in your forearm can help to improve your quality of life and allow you to be more productive at work and around the home. Some natural ways of relieving muscle and joint pain in your forearm include resting the arm, cold compression therapy, and therapeutic massage.

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In this article, you will learn about the many causes of forearm pain and how to prevent damage or injury to it. I will also look at some of the best simple home remedies to relieve swelling, tenderness, aches, and discomfort that sometimes is associated with pain in one or both of the forearms.

Causes of Forearm Pain

Injury to the forearm

The forearm is made up of 2 bones called the radius and ulna. If one or both of these bones gets fractured or injured, you will have mild to severe pain in your forearm depending on the extent of the injury.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, a painful fracture in your forearm will also result in swelling, bruising, and possible numbness in your fingers. You may also temporary lose the ability to rotate your arm.1 Dr. Michelle on Patient.info says that people who have osteoporosis are also at risk of fracturing their forearm.2

If you fracture your forearm by falling over, receiving a direct blow or being in an accident, it’s important to get prompt medical attention. This will help to make sure and prevent any infection developing in the damaged forearm and allow you to receive the proper treatment for the bones to heal properly.

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Strain and overuse injuries

Repetitively straining or overusing your arms can cause tightness and pain in your forearm, wrist, shoulder, elbow, and fingers. Overuse injuries that cause forearm pain are common in athletes, people who enjoy playing racquet or throwing sports, and office workers who use a keyboard. The pain can be anywhere from a dull, throbbing ache to a severe, sudden pain in the forearm. Depending on the location of the injury you may suffer from left forearm pain or right forearm pain.

According to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), pain in the wrist can also radiate to the forearm.3

Repeated strain and overuse can also cause tendinitis or tenosynovitis. Both of these conditions involve inflammation and can cause pain in the affected tendons. Dr. Joseph J. Biundo from the Tulane Medical Center explains that tendinitis and tenosynovitis can cause pain when the joints near the tendon are moved.4

The CUPE says that it’s important to rest strained tendons, otherwise, permanent damage can be caused to the tendons.3

Nerve damage

Another common reason for pain in the lower arm is nerve damage. All the organs and limbs in the body are connected by a system of nerves. These nerves are responsible for movement and carry signals between the brain and spinal cord and the rest of the body. Damage to one or more nerves can result in forearm pain, which can, at times, be severe.

For example, Dr. Melinda Ratini on WebMD says that damage to nerves in the spine can cause cervical radiculopathy. This is the clinical description of pain and neurological symptoms resulting from any type of condition that irritates a nerve in the cervical spine (neck). This condition causes pain to radiate to the arm, shoulders, upper back, neck, and chest. A person may also experience numbness and a tingling sensation in their fingers.

Sometimes a ruptured disc in the spine causes damage to the nerve root and results in inflammation and pain along the nerve pathway.5

Carpal tunnel syndrome is another type of nerve damage that can also be the source of sharp forearm pain. The pain that carpal tunnel syndrome causes occurs when a nerve in the wrist gets pressed or squeezed.

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According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, carpal tunnel syndrome is common in people who do repetitive work, have arthritis, or diabetes. The first signs of carpal tunnel syndrome can be a tingling and itching sensation in the hand and fingers. The fingers may feel swollen, although there is no visible swelling. In time, you may feel a sudden sharp, shooting pain from your wrist up your forearm.6

Damage to nerves that cause forearm pain can often be prevented by taking frequent breaks and gently stretching your fingers, wrists, and arms.

Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) could be a reason for forearm pain. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation, pain, and swelling in joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation, RA most commonly affects the elbows and can cause pain in both arms because often both elbows are affected at the same time.7

Arthritis can also cause other conditions that lead to nerve and tendon damage. For example, Professor of Rheumatology, Dr. Ravinder N. Maini says that 1 in 5 people with rheumatoid arthritis develops pain in their forearm due to carpal tunnel syndrome.8

According to Dr. Tim Kenny on Patient.info, you may also notice small painless lumps on your forearm skin and elbows if you have arthritis.9

Knowing which foods to avoid and which foods to eat for arthritis can help to prevent any painful flare-ups. If you suffer from arthritis pain in your forearm, elbows, knees, or other joints in your body, then my article about the best natural home remedies for arthritis pain relief has practical advice for you.

Body aches from the flu or cold

Aches and pains in your forearm muscles and joints could be caused by the common cold or flu virus. Among the many cold and flu symptoms are severe muscles pains in your arms, legs, or back.

The Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice reported that many people who suffer from the flu also suffer from sore forearms, muscle tightness, and tenderness along the length of the forearm. In fact, with some people, the flu virus causes forearm pain even after a person has recovered from the flu and is otherwise healthy.10

The best way to prevent muscle aches caused by the flu is to avoid getting it in the first place. You can learn about some practical tips on how to stay free from the flu during winter time. If you suffer from the flu then you will probably be interested to read my article on how long the flu lasts and how to recover faster.

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Infections

Infections in your lymphatic system or blood vessels could be another cause of forearm pain. Serious infection can result if the Streptococci strain of bacteria enters the lymph vessels or bloodstream through a cut, scrape, or wound.

A bacterial infection in the lymph vessels is called lymphangitis. Dr. A. Damian Dhar explains that lymphangitis causes inflammation in the affected area which can be painful and tender to touch. You may notice red streaks in the affected arm or leg.11

If you notice red streaks that feel warm and tender, it’s important to seek medical advice as soon as possible to reduce the risk of the infection spreading and prevent blood poisoning.

Natural Remedies for Forearm Pain

Depending on the root cause of your forearm pain, there are many effective natural methods to ease the pain and improve mobility in your arm. Most pain in the forearm and lower arm is caused by damage to the joints, muscles, nerves, or tendons and you can get natural pain relief by using cold packs, exercising, and massage.

R.I.C.E method for forearm pain relief

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic recommend using the R.I.C.E. method to treat arm or elbow pain.12 R.I.C.E. is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This is effective for any kind of pain caused by injury, damage to nerves, tendons, muscles, or joints, as well as inflammatory conditions.

Here is how to apply the R.I.C.E. method to relieve painful swelling and inflammation causing forearm pain:

Rest. Avoid the tendency to work through the pain. Resting the painful arm will help the tissue to repair itself and speed up the healing process of your forearm. So, try to avoid any activity that puts extra strain on your forearm and causes pain or swelling.

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Ice. An ice pack can help to reduce swelling, muscle spasm, and pain in the forearm. Place crushed ice in a bag and cover it with a towel. Apply to the affected area for up to 20 minutes a day to help relieve aches and pains in your arm, wrist, and elbows.

Compression. Use a compressive bandage to wrap around the painful area to help reduce swelling and help relieve joint pain.

Elevation. Try to keep your painful forearm raised for as long as possible to help alleviate the pain and swelling.

For some sports injuries, you may find that the P.R.I.C.E. method of pain relief can help to stop any painful symptoms caused by repetitive strain or injury. The P.R.I.C.E. is just the same as the R.I.C.E. method, but you have to first of all, Protect the injured area from further damage until the injury is healed.

Exercise to relieve forearm pain

Gently exercising the painful tendons, nerves, or joints can help to relieve forearm pain and increase mobility. If your forearm pain is caused by repetitive strain injuries, try stretching your arms, fingers, and wrists to help reduce pressure on your joints.

If you suffer from severe forearm pain, you may have to wait until any pain and inflammation has stopped before you exercise your arm or wrist.6

Massage

Massage is a relaxing way to get forearm pain relief and help to prevent flare-ups of inflammation.

One study into the effect of massage on pain relief found that massage helped patients suffering from acute pain to greatly reduce levels of pain and speed up the healing process. However, the massage therapy also helped patients to sleep better, feel more relaxed, and in general recover quicker.13

Other Ways to Relieve Pain in Forearm

You could also try some of these other natural ways to relieve forearm pain in your joints and muscles:

When to See a Doctor for Forearm Pain

In many cases, aches and pains in your forearm can be successfully treated at home. However, you should seek professional medical attention in these situations:

  • If the forearm pain is the result of an injury, a doctor can check for fractures or sprains and advise on the best course of treatment.
  • You notice red streaks radiating from an injury or wound. This is one of the signs of blood poisoning which is a serious medical condition.
  • You can’t pinpoint the cause of your pain, or existing mild throbs and aches in your forearm suddenly get worse.
  • The pain doesn’t respond to natural pain-relief methods.

Read these related articles:

Article Sources

  1. org. Adult forearm fractures
  2. info. Forearm injuries and fractures
  3. ca. Repetitive strain injuries
  4. Merck Manuals. Tendinitis and tenosynovitis
  5. WebMD. Cervical radiculopathy
  6. nih.gov. Carpal tunnel syndrome
  7. org. Arthritis and diseases that affect the elbows
  8. com. Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms and diagnosis
  9. info. Rheumatoid arthritis
  10. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2013 Jan-Mar; 4(1): 51–54
  11. Merck Manuals. Lymphangitis
  12. Mayo Clinic. Tendinitis
  13. Int J Ther Massage Bodywork. 2010; 3(1): 4–11
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