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Forearm Muscle Strain

(Muscle Strain, Forearm; Pulled Muscle, Forearm)
  • 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
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • 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

    The doctor will ask about 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.

    American Council on Exercise

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


    Canadian Physiotherapy Association

    Canadian Academy of Sports Medicine


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

    Muscle strain (pulled muscle). John Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed March 10, 2015.

    Sprains, strains, and tears. American College of Sports Medicine website. Available at: Accessed March 10, 2015.

    10/26/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.

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