Forearm pain can have many different causes, from injuries to underlying health conditions. Often, home remedies can help provide relief.
Your forearm consists of two bones that come together to join at the wrist, called the ulna and radius. Injuries to these bones or to nearby nerves, muscles, or joints can lead to forearm pain.
In many cases, pain in your forearm is not serious and will resolve on its own with rest and at-home care. However, sometimes there is an underlying cause that requires medical treatment.
Forearm pain can result from a number of causes. These range from sudden injuries to repetitive strain to underlying medical conditions that damage nerves, bones, or joints.
Much of the time, forearm pain is temporary and will improve on its own. But if it’s severe, accompanied by other symptoms, or does not improve in a few weeks, you should seek medical care.
Some possible causes of forearm pain include:
- arthritis, when joints in your wrist or elbow become inflamed, sore, and may also swell
- tennis elbow or golfer’s elbow, when your tendons become inflamed after injury or repetitive movements
- carpal tunnel syndrome, when swelling causes pressure on the median nerve in your wrist, often causing numbness in your hand and arm and pain that may radiate up the forearm
- sprains or strains, when an injury causes tearing or overstretching of ligaments (strain) or muscles (strain)
- fractures, when an injury causes a bone to crack or break
- angina, a symptom of coronary artery disease that causes pain in your upper body, such as your chest or arms
- cervical radiculopathy, when a pinched nerve in your neck causes pain to radiate down your arm
- nerve problems, which can be the result of conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disorders
Most of the time, pain in your arm or elbow is not a sign of a serious condition. It will often improve on its own. If the pain lasts more than a few weeks without getting better, it’s time to see your doctor.
However, if your pain is severe, sudden, or accompanied by other symptoms, you should not wait to get help. Instead, call your doctor for guidance right away or get emergency care. Reasons to get medical attention with arm pain include:
- numbness or tingling in your arm
- your arm is swollen and you feel hot and shivery or have a high fever
- your arm hurts when you exercise but the pain stops when you rest
- you have difficulty moving your arm and extreme pain
- you heard a snapping noise when your arm was injured, or the shape of your arm has changed
Together with forearm pain, these symptoms could mean you have a broken bone, an infection, or a heart condition. These are serious conditions, so it’s important to get checked out by a doctor right away.
Arm pain can be a sign of heart attack
Arm pain or discomfort can be a sign of heart attack, which is a life threatening condition.
If you think you could be having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency services immediately.
Treatments for forearm pain can vary based on the underlying cause.
For mild sprains or strains, home remedies can help.
If you’re diagnosed with an injury or another condition that’s affecting your arm, your doctor may also recommend some of these techniques as part of your care plan.
- Resting your forearm can usually help to reduce inflammation.
- Icing the affected area with a cloth-covered ice pack for 5 minutes at a time, several times a day may also help to reduce swelling.
- Taking an over-the-counter pain-relieving medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), can help to reduce discomfort.
- Wearing a wrist brace or bandage that limits mobility may also help.
In some cases, your doctor may recommend stretching and strengthening exercises to reduce forearm pain. They may also refer you to a physical therapist who can help you learn exercises and techniques to support healing.
If your health care professional recommends stretching or exercises, they will choose specific techniques for you. The exercises they choose will vary based on which injury or condition is causing your forearm pain. Other exercises may not help or could even worsen your condition.
You shouldn’t begin any exercise or stretching regimen without a doctor’s approval. Otherwise, you could risk worsening an injury.
Stretches and exercises can be mildly uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t feel pain. If you notice pain, it’s best to stop the exercise and talk with your doctor or physical therapist.
Wrist extensor stretch
This stretch helps to reduce tension in the wrist extensor muscles in your forearm. It may be recommended for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow.
How to do the wrist extensor stretch
- Hold your arm out parallel to the ground, extending from the shoulder. Turn your hand so your palm is facing downward toward the floor.
- Use the opposite hand to pull your outstretched hand down and toward your body, bending your wrist and feeling a stretch on top of your hand and forearm.
- Hold this position for 15-20 seconds.
- Repeat 3-5 times on each side.
Your doctor may recommend stretching your elbow, if a problem with this area is contributing to forearm pain. Although the exercise may seem similar to a bicep curl, it focuses on increasing the range of movement in your elbow area.
How to do the elbow bend
- Stand up straight with your arms at your sides.
- Bend one arm upward, allowing the inside of your hand to touch your shoulder. If you can’t reach your shoulder, stretch only as close to it as you can.
- Hold this position for a few seconds.
- Lower your hand and repeat the exercise 10 times.
Strengthen your forearm muscles with this exercise, which requires minimal equipment. This type of exercise may be recommended after an arm injury or fracture has healed.
Once you can comfortably use your arm again, your doctor may recommend exercises similar to this one to increase your wrist stability and grip strength.
How to do the wrist turn
- Grasp a water bottle or a can of soup in your hand, with the bottom of the object resting in your palm. Hold your arm out at shoulder height. Start with your palm facing upward.
- Holding onto the bottle or can, turn your arm and wrist until your palm faces downward.
- Continue alternating your palm facing upward to facing downward.
- Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions.
Exercises with weights are usually not recommended while you are first starting to heal from an injury. Instead, your doctor or physical therapist may recommend other exercises.
Treatments for forearm pain will be different depending on what’s causing your symptoms. Some of the methods used to treat forearm pain include:
- medications to relieve pain and inflammation, or to treat an underlying condition that is causing forearm pain
- physical therapy
- devices to limit your range of motion, such as a brace or collar
- a cast, to hold a broken bone in place while it heals
- heat therapy and cold therapy
- cortisone injections
- surgery to repair damage to nerves, bones, or soft tissue
Unless you have an acute injury or condition that requires surgery, your doctor will usually recommend trying non-surgical treatments first. If your forearm pain doesn’t improve and it’s affecting your quality of life, surgery may be considered after trying other treatments.
If you have a mild sprain or strain, you may be able to manage your condition with home remedies. Rest your forearm and see a doctor if your symptoms get worse instead of improving.
Your doctor can diagnose what’s causing your forearm pain. There are many treatments for this condition, and most people can successfully treat their symptoms without surgery.
If you have sudden or severe arm pain, or other symptoms that cause concern, call for emergency medical help. When a serious injury or medical emergency is causing forearm pain, treatment can reduce the chance of complications and improve your outcomes.