Forearm Muscle Strain
(Muscle Strain, Forearm; Pulled Muscle, Forearm)
Pronounced: FOR-arm MUSS-el str-AY-n
A muscle strain]]> is an injury (partial tear) that damages the internal structure of the muscle. The tearing may be so small that it can only be seen with a microscope. Or, the tearing may be severe enough to cause internal bleeding and cause some muscle fibers to become longer. If the damaged parts of the muscle actually pull away from each other, it is called a muscle rupture.
Forearm muscle strain results from physical stress to the muscles that allow you to extend and flex your arms and hands. It is common among athletes and people whose jobs require them to make small hand movements.
Muscles of the Hand and Forearm
A forearm muscle strain is caused by tension or stress applied to the muscle that it cannot withstand. There are several ways that this can happen:
- Muscle may not be ready for sudden stress
- Tension may be too much for the muscle to bear (eg, lifting a weight that is too heavy for you)
- Muscle is used too much on a certain day
These factors increase your chance of developing forearm muscle strain:
- Having cold, weak, or tight muscles
- Participating in certain sports (eg, tennis, bowling, baseball)
- Exercising in cold weather
- Overexerting yourself
- Exercising or working while fatigued
- Playing musical instruments that strain the forearm (eg, the piano)
- Having a job that requires repetitive movements or strain on forearm (eg, excessive typing) and having a poorly designed work environment
Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors.
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to forearm muscle strain. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:
- Problems flexing your fingers or wrist, or pain while stretching the fingers or wrist
- Area feels tender and sore
- Muscle spasms
Symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He will also do a physical exam. The injured area will be examined for:
- Tenderness over the area of the muscle
- Pain, especially when contracting the muscle
Tests may include:
- MRI scan]]> —a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the body (This is uncommon for most people. The test is usually done with college or professional athletes to determine when they will return to their sport.)
- Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine the body
- ]]>CT scan]]> —a type of x-ray that uses a computer to take pictures of structures inside the body
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:
- Rest—Do not do activities that cause pain.
- Ice—Apply cold to the injured area for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for several days after the injury. Do not apply the cold directly to the skin.
- Compression and elevation—This can decrease swelling.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—These can help relieve pain. Ask your doctor if NSAIDs are right for you.
- Heat—Use heat only when you are returning to activity. Then use it before stretching or getting ready to exercise.
- Stretching]]> —When the acute pain is gone, start gentle stretching. Stay within pain limits. Hold each stretch about 10 seconds and repeat six times. Repeat stretching four times a day.
- ]]>Strengthening]]> —When a muscle is injured, it becomes weaker because it is not used. You must gradually regain strength. Do this under your doctor’s care.
Your doctor may also recommend that you do:
- Physical therapy—to strengthen and condition your hand, wrist, and arm
- Occupational therapy—to learn better movements for doing your job if you injured your forearm at work
To help reduce your chance of getting forearm muscle strain, take the following steps:
- Learn techniques for avoiding strain. For example, you may need to get an ergonomic keyboard]]> .
- Keep muscles strong. This will help them absorb the energy of sudden stressful activities.
- After a short warm-up period, stretch tight muscles. Avoid overexercising.
- Learn the proper technique for sports. This will decrease muscle stress.
- If you are feeling tired, stop exercising.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Physical Therapy Canada
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What is Occupational Therapy? American Occupational Therapy Association website. Available at: http://www.aota.org/Consumers/WhatisOT.aspx . Accessed November 18, 2008.
Last reviewed September 2009 by ]]>Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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