Almost every form of popular exercise involves some amount of gripping — a cricket ball, a hockey stick, a barbell, handlebars, an oar or paddles, etc.
That means that almost every form of popular exercise presents a strain to the forearms.
Even our jobs can strain our forearms with things like excessive typing or mouse use.
All of this work poses a risk to our 20 forearm muscles, and over-use injuries are very common. There's lots of different types of forearm over-use injuries. They have different names and there are slight differences in their presentation but they all follow one fairly straight-forward pattern:
When a muscle is over-used, it fatigues, tightens, shortens, and becomes less flexible.
The now rigid muscle begins to pull at the tendon attachments, causing pain in the wrist and/or elbow where the tendon attaches to the bone.
The shortened, tightened muscle begins to tear tiny, microscopic holes in itself as a result of its inability to retract. This causes pain in the muscle belly.
The weary, damaged muscle then causes a decrease in the range of motion for the elbow and/or wrist. The surrounding muscles then must make-up the difference, and the risk of those muscles becoming over-loaded and over-used increases dramatically.
You can stretch, strengthen, and needle your way back from forearm over-use injuries, but prevention is always better than a cure — that way you don't have to sit-out of exercise for 6 weeks while you recover!
That being said, it's impractical to avoid using your forearms every day because, as I mentioned above, we use them for almost everything. The best thing we can do is recognise the early signs of over-use, and treat ourselves accordingly.
The early signs are a general feeling of tightness and/or fatigue in the forearm, sharp, but mild pain in the wrist and/or elbow during activity, and shaking hands on activity
If you find it early, you can treat yourself by finding the tender spots in your arm and massaging them three times daily. For more serious muscle strains, though, you may need to get advice from a sports health professional regarding the best possible treatment option
If you have any questions about your own forearms, or would like a risk assessment contact of of my clinics directly to make an appointment.
Dr Mitch Clark