Certain activities such as playing baseball or weight lifting can result in too much stress on the forearm, leading to injury. A forearm injury can quickly derail your workout goals, which is why knowing how to recover from one is extremely important.
Types and Categories of Injuries
Forearm injuries are among the most common type of athletic injury, and may be classified as either strains or sprains. A strain involves tearing or damage to a muscle, while a sprain has to do with the unusual stretching or tearing of tendons. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) classifies strains and sprains into three different categories:
- First Degree: Involves minor tearing, and may result in pain when completing a full range of motion
- Second Degree: Occurs whenever there are partially-torn muscles or tendons, and may cause swelling, more severe pain, and limited motion.
- Third degree: Happens when a ligament or muscle is completely ruptured, resulting in severe pain and in some cases, a complete loss of motion.
The first step in treating a forearm injury involves applying the PRICE principle:
- Protect from additional injury
- Rest/restrict activity
- Ice down the injury
- Compression (apply compression bandage)
- Elevate the forearm
Over-the-counter medication can also be used to help alleviate pain and swelling. Many people find that alternating between hot and cold therapy provides greater relief than using ice alone.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommends seeing a physician for a second or third-degree forearm injury. In addition, longer rest periods are required for more severe injuries. You may notice some improvement within 48-72 hours for first-degree injuries; however, the recovery period could take several weeks for second or three-degree ones. During the recovery period, you should avoid heavy lifting, activities that require gripping such as tennis or golf, or overextending the forearm or elbow such as in baseball.
If you regularly engage in an activity that puts you at a higher-than-average risk for developing a forearm injury, you should take preventive measures such as:
- Using the proper technique when lifting. A good number of forearm injuries occur when the muscles are stretched beyond their limits.
- Stretching the elbow, wrist, and forearm before playing sports such as tennis.
- Performing strengthening exercises such as wrist curls or wrist rotations.
- Paying attention to your body so that you recognize signs of an injury. Stop exercising immediately if you experience any pain whatsoever in your forearms.
- Avoiding repetitive motions as often as possible when outside the gym. If your job requires you to perform repetitive forearm motions, consider wearing a brace while at work. You may also want to consider an ergonomic keyboard if you regularly spend a great deal of time in front of your computer each day.
A forearm injury can keep you from becoming competitive, and can also hinder everyday activities. Use the above information to help you prevent and treat forearm injuries so they do not keep you from doing the things that keep you fit and healthy.