Many of us overuse our forearms for a living, and repetitive overuse is one common cause of sore forearms. So anyone who types, uses a mouse, hammers, crochets, paints or grips for hours a day will want to read this!
Forearms can become sore due to muscle fatigue, spasm, trigger points, direct trauma, tendinitis, or a combination of these.
If your pain is something new, severe, or accompanied with edema, please seek medical attention. If it is progressively getting worse, or you think it might be tendinitis, you should also have it checked out. If it is attributable to a repetitive or straining task you know caused it, then some self treatment is in order!
In general, and if you only have a few minutes to give yourself some relief, ice is key. You can either dunk your arms into a sink of cold water for a minute, run them under a cold tap (making sure to get right around the elbows also), wrap an ice pack around them, or use a frozen water filled Dixie cup to massage around the elbow and forearm. Just one simple ice application can make your forearms feel alive again, and ready for another day of abuse!
You don’t need to wait until you are sore to apply ice, either. If you have been doing a stressful task, such as painting a room or hammering, it is a great idea to apply some ice when you are done whether your forearms are sore yet or not. It might just ease the severity of symptoms before they even set it!
If you have a little more time, it is a good idea to spend some extra time to massage and stretch your forearms before the ice application.
It is important to note that trigger points from the neck, shoulder and even chest can all refer pain into the forearms, so you should address all these areas with massage.
The easiest way to self-massage these areas is by placing a tennis ball into a long sock. You can then hold the tennis ball behind your back and lean against a wall to treat the shoulder and back areas. Move your body up and down and side to side, applying pressure against the ball (by pushing it into the wall) to massage each area.
To work the muscles in your forearm, rest your arm on a table, palm facing down. Press the tennis ball into the meaty part of your forearm (just below the elbow), and roll it down towards your writs. Repeat this a few times, changing your position slightly to get other sections of muscle.
If you need to work a little deeper, you can even use the elbow of your opposite arm and press it firmly but gently into the muscles your forearm. Be cautious not to overdo it.
Stretching and mobilizing your forearms is an important preventative measure to keep them loose and mobile.
A simple stretch is to hold your right arm out straight in front of you, palm facing down, and elbow straight. Place your left hand on top of the outstretched one, and flex the right hand down at the wrist, so that your fingers are pointing towards the floor. You should feel a nice gentle pulling sensation in your forearm muscles. Hold this for at least 30 seconds, and repeat on the left.
Next, turn your right outstretched arm palm up, and, using the left hand, gently pull your right hand down at the wrist so that your fingers are pointing to the floor. You should feel this in the wrist and inside of the elbow. Again hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the left.
Please remember that stretching should not be painful. It should feel like a gentle taut sensation, and melt away after a few seconds. At that point, you can increase the stretch until you feel the taut feeling again, and hold until it releases.
Mobilizing is another great tool, similar to stretching. When you mobilize a joint you basically take it through its entire range of motion many times. This helps relax ligaments, get nutrition moving into the joint, and keeps everything limber and oxygenated.
To mobilize your forearms, you need to move the wrists and elbows. Start with your arms outstretched in front of you, palms facing up. Bring your fingers into a fist, flex your wrists up, and then curl at the elbows, coiling your arms up and into your chest. Then uncurl them until your arms are again outstretched with wrists extended and fingers pointing towards the floor. Repeat this 20 times.
Next, with arms again outstretched in front of you, palms up, roll your wrists in so that palms are facing each other. Keep rolling until they are facing the floor, and then keep rolling until they can’t go any farther. They should be facing away from one another. Now roll them back out, twisting as far the other way as possible. Repeat 20 times.
Lastly, from the starting position, roll your wrists in circles in both directions, with hands in a fist 10 times each way, and with fingers extended 10 times each way.
These strategies should not only be performed when you are experiencing sore forearms, but you should also employ them as part of a health maintenance program, to keep healthy arms from becoming a problem in the first place!
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