Written By: Chloe Wilson BSc (Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: SPE Medical Review Board
Forearm tendonitis is a common problem that can affect athletes and office workers alike.
With forearm tendonitis, there is irritation or inflammation of one or more of the forearm tendons, usually due to repetitive overuse or an injury.
Common symptoms include an aching or burning pain in the forearm that gets worse with activities such as gripping or typing, and may be accompanied by weakness.
Forearm tendonitis treatment can usually be done at home and may involve a combination of RICE, exercises and activity modification.
Forearm tendonitis occurs when there is damage to the forearm tendons. Tendons are thick cord-like structures that connect muscle to bone and allow joints to flex, extend and twist. When a muscle contracts, it pulls on the tendon which in turns moves the bone that it is attached to.
Forearm tendonitis can occur in any of the forearm tendons but the two that are most commonly affected are:
Our forearm tendons are working constantly during the day, when you’re typing, cooking, playing sports, working out, cleaning, lifting things – the list goes on. This makes the forearm tendons prone to overloading, resulting in micro-tearing and damage to the tendon.
The body responds to this damage by producing inflammatory cells to help heal the injured tissue causing inflammation in the tendon fibers, known as forearm tendonitis.
Forearm tendonitis is typically caused by either:
There are also certain factors that increase your risk of developing forearm tendonitis which include:
Common symptoms of forearm tendonitis include:
Forearm tendonitis symptoms will vary slightly depending on which group of tendons are affected:
If you have pain further down your outer forearm, at least 3cm from the elbow, then chances are it is radial tunnel syndrome, where there is irritation of the radial nerve rather than tendonitis.
Forearm tendonitis can usually be diagnosed by your doctor taking a full history and examining your neck, shoulders and arms. They will carry out specific forearm tendonitis tests such as:
They may also want to send you for various tests e.g. x-ray or ultrasound scan to rule out other possible causes.
Forearm tendonitis is just one possible cause of inner elbow pain and outer elbow pain. If forearm tendonitis isn't sounding quite like your problem, visit the elbow pain diagnosis section.
In most cases, forearm tendonitis treatment can be done at home. The best home remedies for forearm tendonitis are:
The best place to start with forearm tendonitis treatment is RICE which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression & Elevation
Medications can also help to treat forearm tendonitis. Over-the-counter pain relief mediation e.g. paracetamol/acetaminophen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) e.g. ibuprofen/Advil can work well but check with your doctor or pharmacist before taking any new medication.
If you have to continue with activities that you know will aggravate your forearm tendonitis, time when you take your medication so it can have maximum effect. A good tip is to take medication 30 minutes prior to exercise/activity.
Corticosteroid injections can be a useful part of forearm tendonitis treatment, particularly in the more acute phase. A mixture of anaesthetic and steroid solution is injected into the affected forearm tendonitis lump which helps to reduce pain and inflammation. Some people notice the benefits immediately, for others it can take a few days.
Ideally injections should be carried out under ultrasound guidance to ensure the right part of the tendon is injected. Steroid injections do temporarily weaken the tendon so it is really important to rest for a few days and not put any strain through the tendon otherwise there is a risk of tendon rupture. And repeated injections into a forearm tendonitis lump should be avoided, again due to tendon weakening.
If your forearm tendonitis is due to spending long periods doing desk work or on the computer it is worth looking at your desk set up. It is common for your wrist to be in an extended position when using a keyboard of mouse which increased the risk of developing forearm tendonitis.
Using a wrist rest to ensure your wrist is in a neutral position can make a big difference. And if it is your mouse hand that is affected, try swapping your mouse over to the other hand – it will feel awkward at first but can be easier than trying to co-ordinate a wrist rest with the mouse.
In most cases, your doctor will recommend physical therapy for forearm tendonitis. Not only will a physical therapist be able to give you a personalised rehab programme, they may use other treatments for tendonitis in the forearm such as:
Some people find wearing a forearm tendonitis brace or strap really helps as part of their treatment plan. The most common options for a forearm tendonitis brace are:
Exercises are a really important part of forearm tendonitis treatment to combat any weakness and tightness in the forearm muscles. Ideally, you want to do a combination of strengthening and stretching exercises for forearm tendonitis:
There are a number of different forearm tendonitis exercises that can help and here are a few to get you starts.
For each of these exercises, sit with your forearm resting on the arm of a chair, holding a weight/can in your hand. Let your wrist rest just off the end of the chair arm so your hand hangs freely. With each of these exercises the movement should come from your wrist – keep your forearm, elbow and shoulder still.
If any of these forearm tendonitis exercises irritate your symptoms or cause any pain, try using a lighter weight and/or reduce the number of repetitions. You may find some of these exercises for forearm tendonitis easier than others so don’t feel you have to do the same number or use the same weight for each – just do what works best for you.
These forearm tendonitis exercises are a great place to start, but there are other exercises that can also help to further stretch and strength the forearm muscles – check out the medial tendonitis exercises section to find out more.
Forearm tendonitis surgery is usually only necessary if there is a significant tear in the tendon, the tendon has torn away from the bone or significant scar tissue has built-up in the tendon. In most cases, surgery is only considered if symptoms persist after six months of forearm tendonitis treatment.
Forearm tendonitis surgery will look to remove any scar tissue, repair any tears in the tendon and/or re-attach the tendon to the bone if necessary.
Recovery from forearm tendonitis surgery usually takes 1-3 months with a combination of physical therapy, exercises and in some cases splinting.
Forearm tendonitis is a common cause of forearm and elbow pain. It is most typically caused by overuse and repetitive strain through the tendon. The sooner you start forearm tendonitis treatment, the quicker symptoms will subside.
Forearm tendonitis treatment typically involves a combination of rest, medication, exercises and physical therapy and some people benefit from wearing a forearm tendonitis brace. Symptoms usually settle within 3-12 weeks with correct forearm tendonitis treatment.
You can find out more about the two most common types of forearm tendonitis and how to treat them:
Tendonitis can affect any of the tendons in the arm and other than forearm tendonitis, the most common types of arm tendonitis are:
If none of these are sounding like your problem, visit the elbow pain diagnosis section for help working out what's wrong.
Page Last Updated: 12/13/2022
Next Review Due: 12/13/2024
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