Read below about forearm pain, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your forearm pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

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Forearm Pain Symptoms

Perhaps you've just been carrying on with your day like normal, or maybe spending too much time typing at the computer. But for some reason your forearm does not feel right. In certain cases, such as after a fall, the origin of forearm pain is easily identified. However, quite often, the origin of forearm discomfort is unknown. The best way to uncover the underlying cause is to identify the symptoms and characteristics of the pain as specifically as possible.

Possible symptoms associated with forearm pain include:

  • Sharp pain in one or both forearms
  • Tingling, diminished, or altered sensation in one or both forearms or hands
  • Dull aching pain in one or both forearms
  • Weakness of the forearm, wrist, or fingers
  • Visible muscle atrophy of the muscles in the forearm or fingers

Certain causes of forearm pain symptoms can be due to complex systemic inflammatory processes that may involve other symptoms in addition to forearm pain. Therefore, in addition to those listed above, it is important to also note any other symptoms such as skin or mouth ulcers, nasal polyps, or any blood produced when coughing, as these may indicate the presence of an underlying immune dysfunction that may also be causing forearm pain.

Forearm Pain Causes Overview

In some instances, the cause of forearm pain is easily identifiable, such as being felt after a fall or athletic injury. In other cases, though, the underlying cause of the forearm pain symptoms can be harder to pinpoint. While there are many possible causes of forearm pain, they can be classified according to several categories.

Systemic disease:

  • Metabolic: Certain common metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, damage the nerves, causing pain and/or numbness in the hands and forearms [1]. Many patients with diabetes also have atherosclerosis, which causes poor blood flow as well as cramping or weakness in the forearms.
  • Tumor: Any form of abnormal structure that compresses a nerve anywhere along its path between the spine and the forearm, such as a benign or malignant tumor, can lead to pain or numbness in the forearm.
  • Hereditary: Certain inherited neuropathies, such as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, can cause nerve sensitivity and/or degeneration [2]. Such disorders are most frequently diagnosed in childhood, but are also sometimes diagnosed in adulthood. Additionally, while blood clots in the arm are rare, certain anatomic variations in the branching of arm veins can cause individuals to be predisposed to clots in the arm.

Inflammation

  • Autoimmune: Vasculitis is a condition where the immune cells attack blood vessels, and it can affect many parts of the body, including the nerves [3]. In cases where vasculitis causes forearm pain, either one or both arms can be affected, and symptoms may include pain, tingling, numbness, weakness, and muscle wasting.
  • Infection: Many common viruses, such as those that cause chicken pox and cold sores, can also cause inflammation in the nerves (shingles). Usually this results in pain or numbness that lasts for approximately the duration of the active viral infection.

Environmental causes:

  • Fracture: Forearm fracture after falling onto an outstretched hand is a very common cause of pain. If the pain is due to a fracture, it is important to assess whether there is any numbness, tingling, or decreased circulation in the affected region, as any of these are signs that immediate medical attention is needed.
  • Compression from disk herniation: Compression of a nerve that travels to the forearm from herniation of a cervical disk in the spine is another common cause of arm pain.
  • Interruption of blood supply: If anything happens to an artery or vein that blocks the flow of blood to or from the arm, this will cause arm pain, numbness, weakness, and/or swelling.
  • Toxins: Ingestion of certain metals, such as lead and mercury, can lead to nerve damage, which can lead to arm pain. Additionally, excess consumption of alcohol can also damage nerves, causing numbness and/or pain.

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Forearm Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced forearm pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Forearm Strain From a Repetitive Injury

    Repetitive strain injury of the forearm is caused by constantly using the wrist.

    Resolves with rest

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    forearm numbness, forearm weakness, forearm pain from overuse
    Symptoms that always occur with forearm strain from a repetitive injury:
    forearm pain from overuse
    Symptoms that never occur with forearm strain from a repetitive injury:
    severe forearm pain, forearm injury
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow

    Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow is the compression of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness and/or weakness in the hands.

    Mild symptoms resolve on their own, severe disease resolves with surgery

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand, pain in one elbow, pain in one forearm
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

    The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway filled with ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually, and as they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.

    Recovery time varies depending on treatment.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    spontaneous shoulder pain, hand weakness, wrist pain, weakness in one hand, pain in both hands
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Buckle Fracture of Distal Radius

    A buckle fracture of the wrist, also known as a torus fracture, is a condition that are most common in children aged 5-10 years due to the elasticity of their bones. This fracture occurs when force is applied to the radius (one of the two bones of the forearm), causing the bone to split along the growth plate.

    3 weeks in a cast, no need for follow up.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    constant forearm pain, forearm pain from an injury, pain in one forearm, swollen forearm, wrist injury
    Symptoms that always occur with buckle fracture of distal radius:
    forearm pain from an injury, constant forearm pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Forearm Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having forearm pain.

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  5. 5.Bruised Forearm

    A bruise is the damage of the blood vessels that return blood to the heart (the capillaries and veins), which causes pooling of the blood. This explains the blue/purple color of most bruises. Bruises of the forearm are common, often due to minor injuries.

    Bruises begin to heal within one week.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    constant forearm pain, pain in one forearm, forearm pain from an injury, forearm bruise, swelling of one forearm
    Symptoms that always occur with bruised forearm:
    forearm pain from an injury, constant forearm pain
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  6. 6.De Quervain's Tenosynovitis

    De Quervain's tenosynovitis is a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. If you have de Quervain's tenosynovitis, you will feel pain upon turning your wrist, grasping anything, or making a fist.

    4-6 weeks with treatment

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    hand numbness, thumb pain, hand weakness, weakness in one hand, numbness in one hand
    Symptoms that always occur with de quervain's tenosynovitis:
    thumb pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Wrist Sprain

    A wrist sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the wrist. A mild sprain involves just stretching of the ligaments while more severe sprains can tear the ligaments.

    2 weeks

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    wrist injury, wrist pain, wrist pain from an injury, swollen wrist, pain in the back of the wrist
    Symptoms that always occur with wrist sprain:
    wrist injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Elbow Dislocation (Radial Head Subluxation)

    Radial head subluxation is a partial dislocation of a bone in the elbow called the radius. Dislocation means the bone slips out of its normal position.

    Days with treatment

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    pain in one elbow, swollen elbow, difficulty moving the elbow, holding arm close to body because of pain, elbow pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with elbow dislocation (radial head subluxation):
    pain in one elbow
    Symptoms that never occur with elbow dislocation (radial head subluxation):
    elbow locking
    Urgency:
    In-person visit
  9. 9.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Forearm Pain Treatments and Relief

When deciding whether to make a doctor's appointment, a trip to the emergency room, or to just try some small changes at home, you should consider several things.

You should head to the emergency room if:

  • You experience loss of sensation, tingling, or pulselessness in your arms or hands lasting longer than a few minutes
  • Your arm is swollen, misshapen, or extremely sensitive to touch or movement
  • Your arm has either lost color and become pale or turned dark blue/purple
  • You experience sudden-onset weakness in one or both arms

Schedule an appointment with your doctor if:

  • You notice weakness in your arm(s) with exertion, such as while lifting or playing sports.
  • You have intermittent tingling, numbness, or pain in your arms or hands lasting no longer than a few minutes at a time. If symptoms persist longer than a few minutes, then consider going to an emergency room.
  • You think a change in your medications may be causing difficulty focusing, sitting still, or falling asleep at night.

Sometimes you can try a few things at home before seeking medical attention for forearm pain symptoms:

  • Rest, ice, and anti-inflammatories: Resting the affected muscle groups can often help to diminish pain. Additionally, applying a cold pack to the source of pain for no more than 15 minutes at a time, three times a day, can also reduce inflammation. Lastly, taking the suggested dose of an over-the-counter NSAID, such as ibuprofen, can also help to lessen musculoskeletal pain. However, if a fracture is suspected or if pain persists for more than 24–48 hrs, call your doctor or head to an emergency room.

FAQs About Forearm Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about forearm pain.

Why do I have forearm pain when gripping?

The most common cause of forearm pain while gripping is tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis [4]. Tennis elbow is caused by a chronic inflammation of the tendon, commonly called a chronic tendinitis. The tendon is injured from continuing use and strain of the tendon. As the body attempts to heal the tendon, the scar tissue is of a different quality than the original tissue and causes pain when it is strained during squeezing.

Why are my forearms sore for no reason?

There are many causes of forearm pain. With no obvious cause of forearm pain, medical examination is necessary to understand and identify the underlying cause of forearm pain. Commonly, unintentional muscle strain can cause forearm pain with no obvious reason. Other causes include cramps following blocked arteries or blood vessels in the arms, as well as compression of a nerve (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome), or diabetes associated neuropathy.

What does it feel like to have a blood clot in your arm?

How a blood clot feels depends on which blood vessel — artery or vein — it blocks. If a blood vessel blocks an artery, an arm will become cold and painful and any pulses will disappear [5]. It will become much more difficult to move and sensation will decrease and is a medical emergency. If a vein is blocked, the limb may be warm, swollen, and still have some degree of decreased sensation. It is uncommon to get blood clots in the arms in the absence of trauma or a procedure done in the arms or neck region.

Can an infection cause forearm pain?

Yes, an infection of the blood vessels called thrombophlebitis can cause forearm pain. Infection of the skin over the forearm can cause cellulitis, which can also be quite painful. Additionally, breaking the skin through trauma from a fall or scrape or injection of medication can also cause a deep tissue infection and forearm pain.

Why do my forearms hurt when I have a cold?

Viral infections can cause muscle pain (myalgia) that usually resolves prior to the viral infection. Viral infections cause pain in the muscles throughout the body, but can also cause pain in particular areas of the body including the legs or arms. If you have fever, chills, or back pain as well as muscle pain throughout, you should seek medical attention.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Forearm Pain

  • Q.How would you explain your forearm pain?
  • Q.Have someone feel for your pulse (at the wrist) on the side of your body that hurts. Now, turn your head to that side. Does the pulse go away? (This is known as the Adson's test.)
  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Turn your head toward the side of your body that is hurting. Lift your head up as someone else pushes down on your head. Does this cause greater pain in your upper body? (This is known as Spurling's test.)

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our forearm pain symptom checker to find out more.

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Forearm Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced forearm pain have also experienced:

    • 13% Pain in the Upper Arm
    • 10% Shoulder Pain
    • 9% Wrist Pain
  • People who have experienced forearm pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Over a Month
    • 25% Less Than a Day
    • 25% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced forearm pain were most often matched with:

    • 42% Ulnar Nerve Entrapment of Elbow
    • 42% Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
    • 14% Forearm Strain From a Repetitive Injury
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

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References

  1. Peripheral Neuropathy. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Published February 2018. NIDDK Link.
  2. Charcot-Marie-Tooth Disease Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Updated July 6, 2018. NINDS Link.
  3. Symptoms of Vasculitis. Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center. Hopkins Vasculitis Link.
  4. Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylitis). American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: OrthoInfo. Updated July 2015. OrthoInfo Link.
  5. Teague S. Blood Clots. RadiologyInfo.org. Updated August 15, 2018. RadiologyInfo.org Link.