What Can Cause Pain between Wrist and Elbow?

The part of the forelimb between wrist and elbow is commonly referred to as forearm. Sometimes any kind of pain or discomfort occurs in the forearm region without affecting the upper arm or hand and thus may interfere badly in the daily life and specifically if it is the dominant side. The reason for this pain between wrist and elbow may be particular to the structure of the forearm that consists of two long bones, several muscles and nerves together with tendons and ligaments. Without the presence of any symptoms, the actual cause of this pain between wrist and elbow or forearm pain is very difficult to find out. This pain between wrist and elbow may be related to any type of repetitive injury to the structural features, or due to certain traumatic incidence, or because of some disease conditions.

What Can Cause Pain between Wrist and Elbow?

What Can Cause Pain between Wrist and Elbow?

Few common causes for forearm pain or pain between wrist and elbow are discussed below along with specific conditions that need to be considered.

  • Sprain and Strain as a Cause for Pain Between Wrist and Elbow: For most of the people their hands keep on functioning from day to night constantly without taking any rest. This over activity can be dangerous to create symptoms like muscle strain of the forearm. Although tearing of muscle or tendon is not common for forearm, but can occur due to excessive exercise or activity and can lead to problem like tendonitis. Sometimes severe exertion of ligaments of forearms involving actions like sudden shattering or twisting of hands can lead to tremendous pain by causing sprains in the forearm muscles. Usually this pain between wrist and elbow is felt during the mild or unrestricted movements of hands.
  • Arthritis Can Cause Pain Between Wrist and Elbow: Arthritis is an inflammatory health condition affecting mainly joints of the body due to various reasons and may result in severe pain. At the primary stage, arthritis affects smaller joints between bones of the forearm including wrist and elbow and thus causes pain in the forearm region. The reasons of the occurrence of arthritis include: inflammation due to autoimmune factors causing rheumatoid arthritis, erosion of joint cartilage resulting in osteoarthritis, viral infection leading to septic arthritis or injury causing post-traumatic arthritis.
  • Pain between Wrist and Elbow Caused Due to Trauma: Trauma happens due to various reasons and also is of many types. Some trauma arises because of twisting movement, blows, vehicle accidents or any type of falling effect commonly called blunt force. Traumas associated with internal injuries are seen in case of physical assaults or industrial accident cases. Although the signs of trauma are visible in the form of redness, blood clot or hemorrhage from the skin surface but it can also result in excessive forearm pain. In some case, trauma is seen to be combined with simple or compound bone fracture or forearm deformation. All these can lead to severe pain in between the wrist and elbow.
  • Bursitis Can Cause Pain between Wrist and Elbow: Bursae are actually minute fluid-filled sac or pouches like cavities located all over the body and helps to prevent frictional force between movable structures like bones, muscles or tendons. Excessive activities or vigorous exercise may lead to the inflammation of bursae causing a condition known as bursitis in which severe pain is present and get deteriorated even with the little movement of those joints.
  • Problems in Muscles Can Cause Pain in between Wrist and Elbow: Other than simple tendon or muscle strain due to over stretching can lead to excessive pain in between wrist and elbow by causing muscle spasm or cramps like writer’s cramp. This generally occurs in people who use their hands for writing for longer span of time. In this writing cramp condition, the coordinating muscles fail to contract or relax in the usual manner and thus get pulled against one another and leads to mild to severe pain in the region between wrist and elbow.
  • Pain between Wrist and Elbow Caused Due to Nerve Constriction: The more usual nerve situations that results in forearm pain are linked to severe compressions or trauma. Nerves of the forearms region initiate from the cervical vertebra of the neck region and for any case if there is any sort of constriction at this level then it may lead to arm pain. Compression can happen anywhere along the nerve supply due to conditions such as stretching or compression of the ulnar nerve of the elbow region, commonly referred to as cubital tunnel syndrome. When the same condition happens in the wrist region it is called as carpal tunnel syndrome. Both these syndromes are quite painful in the forearm area of the hands.
  • Pain in Between Wrist and Elbow Caused Due to Cardiac Problems: Pain between wrist and elbow may sometimes be related to any type of heart (cardiac) ailments. It most commonly occurs before situations like myocardial infarction or heart attack. In this case, mainly left forearm pain is more noticed. Forearm pain can also happen for short periods at the time of angina stenosis or attacks. Sometimes forearm pain is considered to be the only vital symptom of coronary artery disease and the main risk for heart attack.
  • Subcutaneous Tissue Damage Can Cause Pain Between Wrist and Elbow: The superficial tissue of skin, including underlying connective or adipose tissues can get affected in different ways as a result of severe forearm pain. The subcutaneous tissues of skin can become infected by conditions, such as impetigo and cellulitis and can be dangerous in short span of time if left untreated. Trauma in the forelimb also may lead to bruising that can result in pain in between the elbow and wrist. Other skin diseases are sometimes associated with excessive pain, especially in the presence of any open wounds on the skin surface.
  • Problem in Circulation Might Lead to Pain between Wrist and Elbow: The foremost problem in the circulatory system often in forearm resulting in pain between wrist and elbow is the presence of some blood clots in the blood vessels of the forearm region. This may arise due to several reasons, most commonly, next to the insertion of any needle for withdrawing blood samples or for an IV drip. It can also occur with some patients using intravenous drugs. If there is any type of infection in the bloodstream of forearm, the infection from there can easily get spread to the rest of the body through the blood.
  • Pain in between Wrist and Elbow due to Injury of Tendon: Tendons usually connect the bones of your forearm to the muscles in your elbow and wrist. Destruction of these tendons termed as tendinopathy or tendinitis – due to the overuse of the forearm muscles can also lead to pain in between wrist and elbow. Injuries in tendon lead to pain around elbow or wrist joints of forearm, near the attachment point of bones, muscles or tendons. These conditions not only cause severe pain but also lead to weakness, swelling, and diminished movement of the forearm.

Tips to get Quick Relief from Pain between Wrist and Elbow

Depending on the causes and symptoms of the pain, following are a few tips to provide quick relief from your pain misery effectively.

  • Rest: Take enough rest and good care of the affected area. You may also take leave or stop doing work for a few days until the pain in between the wrist and elbow is completely gone. Don’t try to put stress on the injured tissues as long as your forearm pain persists. Rest will help the process of rejuvenation fast from the cellular level and thus reduce your pain.
  • Cold and Heat Therapy: Cold therapy includes ice pack application over the affected area and it can reduce both pain and swelling. Ice packs should be applied for 10-20 minutes at least twice in a day. You can also use cold gel packs instead of ice. After the swelling decreases, if still the pain persists you can try heat therapy for at least 15-20 minutes twice or thrice a day.
  • Compression Can Help Get Relief from Pain in between Elbow and Wrist: This mainly consists of wrapping up the affected painful area of the forearm with a kind of bandage that reduces swelling. This bandage should not be too much tight to cause numbness, aching or cooling of the region of your forearm. Don’t put the bandage for more than 48 hours and in case you need longer time you can consult with your physician.
  • Immobilization Bands can Help Reduce Pain Between Wrist and Elbow: If you have mild to severe forearm pain, then for quick relief you can try immobilization bands to provide complete rest to the forearm muscles from wrist to elbow. Wearing this band you will be able to do only small activities. This immobilization straps usually dissipates strains over the muscle before causing pain. However, check these straps carefully before wearing so that it should not be too tight to cut your proper blood circulation connection.
  • Massage: Over exerted muscle cells usually respond to massage therapy and thereby reduce inflammatory swelling factors and thus increase cell metabolism and healing process. Daily 30 minutes of massage therapy in the affected area is generally very much helpful.
  • Exercise: Exercise therapy usually consists of flexing, stretching or rolling the forearm muscles carefully without causing further injury. Repetitive motion conditions usually boost the forearm muscles and protects from re-injury in the future. However, go for these strengthening exercises safely under the proper guidance of a professional trainer.
  • Pain Medication to Relieve Pain between Wrist and Elbow: Common over-the-counter medicines, such as NSAIDs including Ibuprofen, Naproxen or Aspirin can be taken to reduce minor forearm pain, swelling or inflammation. However, in severe cases, you may require doctor’s evaluation and advice to reduce pain by applying cortisone shorts or other medications for further recovery.


Pain in between the wrist and elbow can be caused by various reasons either individually or a combination of them. Hence, a proper evaluation is needed to get complete recovery from it. However, the first aids like rest, heat and cold therapy, restricting movement can be followed right from the time the injury happened or the pain started to prevent it from worsening. A regular exercise regime including strength training can help in keeping the muscles strong thus preventing any injury or pain.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 6, 2018

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