Forearm Muscle Strain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery, Exercises
What is a Forearm Muscle Strain?
The function of the forearm muscle is to facilitate extension of the wrist and fingers. Since we use the wrist and fingers for various purposes throughout the day whether at work or at home hence these muscles are in action for most of the day which make them prone to overuse and hence causing a strain. Coming to the definition of a Forearm Muscle Strain, it is a partial or complete tear of small fibers present in the forearm muscles. These tears are quite common as these muscles and the fibers present are in constant motion throughout the day. The strain usually occurs normally in the muscles which are the weakest.
What are the Classifications of a Forearm Muscle Strain?
The Forearm Muscle Strains are graded into three categories which are described below:
Grade I Strain of Forearm Muscle: This type of Forearm Muscle Strain is quite mild and the muscles are very mildly pulled and there is no appreciable tear of the forearm muscle or the muscle fibers. Also, there is no weakness produced to the forearm due to this type of tear.
Grade II Strain of Forearm Muscle: These types of strain are moderate in nature in that there is tearing of fibers in the muscle or tendons at its attachment to the bone. Such Forearm Muscle Strains may result in mild loss of strength of the forearm muscles.
Grade III Strain of Forearm Muscle: These types of strains are quite severe and involve complete rupture of the muscle fibers and tendons. In some cases, there may also be separation of the fibers. Such strains usually are treated with surgical correction and are caused due to repetitive stress injuries like lifting heavy objects repetitively.
What Causes Forearm Muscle Strain?
Some of the causes of Forearm Muscle Strains are:
- Over-stretching of the forearms like when doing any strenuous activities may lead to a Forearm Muscle Strain.
- If there is a heavy object which suddenly falls on to the forearms accidentally can injure or damage the forearm muscles resulting in a Forearm Muscle Strain.
- People involved with manual labor who tend to use their forearms repetitively for strenuous activities can also be predisposed to Forearm Muscle Strain.
- If there is a direct trauma inflicted to the muscles of the forearm as a result of a fight or an assault can cause a Forearm Muscle Strain
What are the Risk Factors for Getting Forearm Muscle Strain?
Some of the risk factors for Forearm Muscle Strain are:
- Athletes who play sports like tennis, golf, hockey are more prone to injuries of the forearms resulting in Forearm Muscle Strain.
- An individual with a history of a Forearm Muscle Strain is at risk for a recurrence of Forearm Muscle Strain
- A Forearm Muscle Strain may also be caused as a result of muscle fatigue
- Working repetitively using the forearms can result in the muscles getting weak and hence cause Forearm Muscle Strain.
What are the Symptoms of Forearm Muscle Strain?
Some of the symptoms of a Forearm Muscle Strain are:
- Difficulty with flexion of the wrist or fingers
- Severe pain with stretching the wrist and fingers
- Tenderness in the wrist and forearm area
- Presence of muscle spasms in the forearm
- In some cases there may also be swelling in and around the forearm region.
How is Forearm Muscle Strain Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose a Forearm Muscle Strain, the physician will take a detailed history as to when the symptoms started. The physician may also inspect the area looking for any areas of tenderness and swelling. The physician will take the forearm and wrist through a range of motion to see that if there is any decrease in range of motion or any pain that is reproduced. In majority of the cases, a Forearm Muscle Strain can be diagnosed with the above methods. The physician will then order imaging studies in the form of x-rays or MRI scans to look at the severity of the strain and to see if any muscle or tendons are torn and if the patient may need surgical repair for treating the strain.
How is Forearm Muscle Strain Treated?
The treatment for Grade I and Grade II strain of the forearm muscle is just supportive and no specific treatment is required. Supportive care for Forearm Muscle Strain will involve following the RICE protocol. In this protocol, the patient will have to restrain from activities that may increase pain or discomfort in the forearm and make the situation worse. The next step towards treatment of Forearm Muscle Strain is utilizing ice to the affected area for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day to allow for the swelling and inflammation to resolve. A compression wrap for Forearm Muscle Strain may also be utilized for a short period of time to allow faster healing of the forearm muscles. It is also useful to keep the affected hand elevated for speedy recovery of the muscles. The patient will also be given pain medication in the form of ibuprofen or Tylenol for take care of the pain caused due to Forearm Muscle Strain.
What are the Exercises Done for Forearm Muscle Strain?
Once the swelling and inflammation of the forearm muscle has subsided, the patient will then be asked to perform the following exercises to get the forearm back into shape such that the patient may get back to regular activities at the soonest possible time. Some of the exercises are:
Exercise for Forearm Muscle Strain #1: Wrist Flexion/Extension: To do this exercise, you need to keep the elbow on a table for support such that the hand is hanging, bend the wrist down until a mild to moderate stretch is felt. Maintain this position for about 10 seconds and come back to the starting position and now bend the wrist upwards until a mild to moderate stretch is present. Maintain this position for about 10 seconds. Do this two to three times a day about 10 times each. You can increase the number of times you move the wrist up and down depending on the pain tolerance.
Exercise for Forearm Muscle Strain #2: Forearm Pronation/Supination: The next step towards recovering from a Forearm Muscle Strain is to perform a forearm pronation/supination exercise. To do this exercise, place the forearm on a table with the wrist hanging in the air. The elbow should be bent at an angle of 90 degrees. Now, try and rotate the hand such that the palm is facing downwards and then rotate the other way. Keep doing it for about 10 times and do it about three times a day.
Exercise for Forearm Muscle Strain #3: Biceps Curls: To do this exercise, you will need two dumbbells of about 5 pounds to start with, which can be increased as the pain allows. Hold the dumbbells in the hands. Place the elbows against the hip and let the arms hang slightly. Now, slowly lift the dumbbells up until the forearm touches the chest. Return back to the starting position. Do this about 15 times and do it about three times a day.
What is the Recovery Time for Forearm Muscle Strain?
The recovery time from Forearm Muscle Strains normally depend on the severity of the strain and whether it is a first time strain or recurrent tears. In case if it is first time tear and is a Grade I tear of the forearm muscle then maximum healing time is a week. In cases of Grade II strain of forearm muscle, it may take up to six weeks for complete recovery and return to normal activities. In cases of severe Forearm Muscle Strain which require surgical correction then recovery may be prolonged and may take up to 12 weeks to recover.
What can one do to Prevent a Forearm Muscle Strain?
There can be quite a few precautions that one can take so as to prevent Forearm Muscle Strains. Some of these steps are:
- Make sure that your workstation is ergonomically correct
- Make sure you do regular exercises so that the muscles remain strong and in shape
- Avoid repetitive strenuous activities and if your job does not allow it then try and take rest breaks in between to allow the muscles to have some rest
- Sportsmen need to learn proper techniques for usage of the forearms while playing.