Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Forearm Muscle Strain

(Muscle Strain, Forearm; Pulled Muscle, Forearm)

Pronounced: FOR-arm MUSS-el str-AY-n

Definition

A forearm muscle strain is a partial or complete tear of the small fibers of the forearm muscles. Forearm muscles allow you to extend and flex your wrist and fingers.

Muscles of the Hand and Forearm
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Causes ^

A forearm muscle strain is caused by:

  • Stretching the forearm muscles beyond the amount of tension they can withstand
  • Suddenly putting stress on the forearm muscles when they are not ready for stress
  • Overusing the forearm muscles over time
  • Receiving a direct blow to the forearm muscles

Risk Factors ^

Factors that may increase the chance of a forearm muscle strain include:

  • Participation in sports that overuse the forearm
  • Previous strain or injury to the area
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Weak or tired muscles
  • Repetitive movements that strain the forearm muscles

Symptoms ^

Symptoms may include:

  • Problems flexing the fingers or wrist
  • Pain while stretching the fingers or wrist
  • Area feels tender and sore
  • Muscle spasms
  • Swelling

Diagnosis ^

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Most forearm muscle strains can be diagnosed with a physical exam.

Images of the area may be needed if severe damage is suspected. Images may be taken with x-ray or MRI scan.

Muscle strains are graded according to their severity:

  • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro tearing of muscle fibers.
  • Grade 2—Partial tearing of muscle fibers.
  • Grade 3—Complete tearing of muscle fibers. This may also be called a rupture or avulsion.

Treatment ^

Recovery time ranges depend on the grade of your injury. Treatment options may include one or more of the following:

Supportive Care

The muscle will need time to heal. RICE is often the main part of treatment:

  • Rest—Activities will need to be restricted at first. Normal activities will be reintroduced gradually.
  • Ice—Ice therapy may help relieve swelling. Heat or cold may be advised throughout recovery if they provide benefits.
  • Compression—Used for a limited time, compression bandages can provide gentle pressure to help move fluids out of the area.
  • Elevation—Keeping the area elevated can help fluids drain out or prevent fluids from building up.

Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be advised to reduce pain.

Prevention ^

To help reduce the chance of a forearm muscle strain:

  • Use an ergonomic keyboard or workstation.
  • Keep muscles strong. This will help them absorb the energy of sudden, stressful activities.
  • Avoid overuse or repetitive stress.
  • Learn the proper technique for sports.
  • If you feel pain during exercise, stop exercising that muscle group.
RESOURCES:

American Council on Exercise
http://www.acefitness.org

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Physiotherapy Association
http://www.physiotherapy.ca

Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine
http://casem-acmse.org

REFERENCES:

Dawson, WJ. Intrinsic muscle strain in the instrumentalist. Med Prol Perform Artists. 2005;20:66-69.

Derry S, Moore RA, Gaskell H, McIntyre M, Wiffen PJ. Topical NSAIDs for acute musculoskeletal pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2015;(6):CD007402.

Muscle strain (pulled muscle). Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/orthopaedic-surgery/specialty-areas/sports-medicine/conditions-we-treat/muscle-strains.html. Accessed February 22, 2018.

Silva AG, La FM, Afreixo V. Pain prevalence in instrumental musicians: a systematic review. Med Probl Perform Art. 2015;30(1):8-19.

Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/sprains-strains-and-tears.pdf. Published 2011. Accessed February 22, 2018.

10/26/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com: Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.

Last reviewed February 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS  Last Updated: 3/18/2013