Forearm Tendinitis: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Pain from forearm tendinitis can make your usual activities more challenging, but simple arm exercises can provide relief.

Published Date: Jan 29, 2024
woman-looking-at-her-forearm-worried

Forearm Tendinitis: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Pain from forearm tendinitis can make your usual activities more challenging, but simple arm exercises can provide relief.

Published Date: Jan 29, 2024
woman-looking-at-her-forearm-worried

Forearm Tendinitis: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Pain from forearm tendinitis can make your usual activities more challenging, but simple arm exercises can provide relief.

Published Date: Jan 29, 2024
woman-looking-at-her-forearm-worried

Forearm Tendinitis: Signs You Have It and How to Treat It

Pain from forearm tendinitis can make your usual activities more challenging, but simple arm exercises can provide relief.

Published Date: Jan 29, 2024
woman-looking-at-her-forearm-worried
Table of Contents

You use your forearms for lots of things, including gripping, lifting, and even opening a door or buttoning a shirt. So if you develop aches or pains right below your elbow joint, it can make doing daily tasks, as well as any sports that you love like tennis, challenging. And while there can be many different contributors to forearm pain, one common factor is forearm tendinitis (tendonitis) which can occur when tendons in the forearm become inflamed or irritated.

The good news is that your forearm muscles are strong and resilient, and there’s a lot you can do to help them recover and avoid further irritation, says Mary Kimbrough, PT, DPT, a physical therapist at Hinge Health.

Read on to learn more about forearm tendinitis: what it is, what causes it, and how to get relief with exercises from our Hinge Health physical therapists.

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Our Hinge Health Experts

Mary Kimbrough, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist
Dr. Kimbrough is a Hinge Health physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist.
Jonathan Lee, MD, MBA
Orthopedic Surgeon and Medical Reviewer
Dr. Lee is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and an Associate Medical Director at Hinge Health.
Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is Forearm Tendinitis?

Forearm tendinitis is irritation of your forearm tendons, the tendons in your lower arm that attach muscle to bone. There are two main types of forearm tendinitis:

  • Golfer’s Elbow: This is an inflammation of the tendons that attach your forearm muscles to the inside of the bone at your elbow. “It affects the muscles that flex your wrist,” explains Dr. Kimbrough.

  • Tennis Elbow: This is inflammation of the tendons that join your forearm muscles on the outside of your elbow. “It affects the muscles that extend your wrist,” says Dr. Kimbrough.

In both cases, your forearm muscles and tendons can get irritated or inflamed as the result of doing the same motions too often before the forearm is ready to handle such repetitive movement. Over time, this can cause tenderness and pain.

Symptoms of Forearm Tendinitis

Common forearm tendinitis symptoms include

  • Pain, soreness, or achiness on the inside or outside of the forearm, usually right below the elbow joint

  • Symptoms that worsen with activities such as gripping or lifting

  • Weak grip strength

  • Pain that’s only (or worse) in your dominant forearm

  • Elbow stiffness

  • Pain that worsens at night

Forearm Tendinitis Causes

Several different factors can contribute to why you might develop forearm tendinitis. They include:

Going beyond your “movement sweet spot.” Forearm tendinitis can occur when you repeatedly do more activity than your body is ready for at that point in time. “I see this a lot in golfers and tennis players who grip a club or racquet and do repetitive motions over and over,” explains Dr. Kimbrough. It can happen if you’re doing a new activity, or if there’s a big change in frequency and duration of an activity you do often. For example, you start playing tennis everyday in the spring after you take the winter off. Or, you start a new job as a cook or plumber, for instance, that relies on your dominant forearm muscles more than you’re used to. 

Normal, age-related changes. Just as it’s normal to develop a few gray hairs on your head as you get older, it’s normal for your tendons to change over time. These changes may cause your tendons to become less elastic, says Dr. Kimbrough, which can make them more likely to tighten up and become strained.

Underlying health conditions. Forearm tendinitis may be more likely to occur if you have certain health conditions. Studies have found an association between type 2 diabetes and an increased risk of tendinitis. This may be because diabetes causes inflammation in the body that raises the risk of tendinitis, says Dr. Kimbrough. Other research suggests a link between heart disease and tendinitis because cholesterol deposits may be linked to tendon inflammation. 

Smoking. A 2020 study in the journal The Surgeon found that people who smoke are more likely to go on to develop tendinitis. Smoking can impair blood flow throughout the body, including to tendons.

Treatment Options for Forearm Tendinitis

The following treatments are recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists for forearm tendinitis:

Activity modifications. One of the first steps you can take if you develop forearm tendinitis is to identify the activities that aggravate or cause a flare up of symptoms. “You don’t want to avoid them altogether, but you may need to scale back certain activities for a period of time to help tamp down inflammation,” says Dr. Kimbrough. “I tell my patients that if you think about pain on a zero to ten scale, if your symptoms are less than five, it’s okay to continue to do those activities.”

Physical therapy. A physical therapist (PT) can help you strengthen and stretch forearm muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This not only helps you recover but also can aid in preventing reinjury. PTs can also show you how to better perform functional movements, like typing on a computer or swinging a tennis racquet, so you can do these activities with less pain.

Arm braces. You don’t want to use an arm brace all the time, but it may be helpful initially so that you can continue to do daily activities with less pain, says Dr. Kimbrough. If your symptoms are on the outside of your elbow, you’ll want to wear what’s known as a tennis elbow brace, a compression garment that encircles the area around your elbow. If symptoms are on the inside of your elbow, a wrist brace can help. 

Check your ergonomics. If you’re finding it difficult to work at a desk with forearm tendinitis, a few tweaks to your office setup may help. Try to keep your elbows mostly at a 90-degree angle when you type, advises Dr. Kimbrough. Your wrists and forearms should be straight and parallel to the floor, and your feet should be flat on the floor. This type of alignment can help take unnecessary pressure off your arms as you type. 

Ice. You can rest an ice pack on your arm or do an ice massage wherever you feel achiness in your forearm, suggests Dr. Kimbrough. The ice will help to ease inflammation, while massage can help loosen tight tendons.

Exercises to Relieve Forearm Tendinitis Pain

Get 100+ similar exercises for free

  • Wrist Extensor Stretch
  • Wrist Flexor Stretch
  • Resisted Wrist Extensions
  • Resisted Wrist Flexion
  • Bent Over IYT

These exercises are recommended by Hinge Health physical therapists to treat forearm tendinitis and prevent it from recurring. And while most of these moves focus on the forearm, stretching and strengthening the muscles in your upper arm, shoulders, and wrists can help ease forearm tendinitis pain by making all the structures that support the forearm stronger.

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Forearm Tendinitis Prevention

It’s normal to experience forearm tendinitis occasionally, especially if you play sports like golf or tennis. But there are a few things you can do to help prevent it:

  • Warm up and cool down. “A dynamic warm up to prepare your muscles for movement can be really effective. Try movements like jumping jacks with your arms rising up and down to activate those arm muscles,” suggests Dr. Kimbrough. Your cool down can include simple-but-effective forearm stretches.

  • Take movement breaks. “If you sit at a desk for eight to ten hours a day, try to step away periodically to do some stretching and strengthening exercises,” says Dr. Kimbrough. This way your arms won’t remain locked in the same position for too long. 

  • Ease into new activities. It’s easy to get excited at the start of tennis season, but don’t ramp up at a rate that’s faster than your body can handle. The key is to find your movement sweet spot, so that you don’t do too much, too soon.

PT Tip: Switch Your Mouse Hand 

“Most of us use our dominant hand to move and click a computer mouse, but it actually puts a lot of load on the forearm,” says Dr. Kimbrough. Temporarily switching hands will probably feel a little awkward at first but just trying it briefly can help give your dominant forearm a rest and break up the repetitive motion.  

How Hinge Health Can Help You

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program.

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you. 

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. 

Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References 

  1. Baskerville, R., McCartney, D. E., McCartney, S. M., Dawes, H., & Tan, G. D. (2018). Tendinopathy in type 2 diabetes: a condition between specialties? The British Journal of General Practice, 68(677), 593–594. doi:10.3399/bjgp18X700169

  2. Tilley, B. J., Cook, J. L., Docking, S. I., & Gaida, J. E. (2015). Is higher serum cholesterol associated with altered tendon structure or tendon pain? A systematic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 49(23), 1504–1509. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-095100

  3. Sayampanathan, A. A., Basha, M., & Mitra, A. K. (2020). Risk factors of lateral epicondylitis: A meta-analysis. The Surgeon, 18(2), 122–128. doi:10.1016/j.surge.2019.08.003

  4. Jayanthi, N. (2022, October 24). Elbow tendinopathy (tennis and golf elbow). UpToDate. Retrieved from https://www.uptodate.com/contents/elbow-tendinopathy-tennis-and-golf-elbow