Pain the forearm can be caused by fractures, stress fractures or muscle compartment pressure syndrome.
If you are not sure what is causing your forearm pain why not try our sports injury symptom checker?
Below we outline the causes of pain in the forearm including fractures of the radius and ulna, stress fractures as well as forearm splints or compartment syndrome in the forearm.
Broken arm is a term than can be used to describe a break or fracture of any bone in the arm. The two bones that make up the forearm are the radius and ulna.
Radius fracture is a break to the radius bone on the inside or thumb side of the forearm. An ulna fracture is a break of the larger ulna bone on the little or pinky finger side of the forearm. A forearm fracture is often caused by a fall onto an outstretched hand and it is not uncommon for both bones to break at the same time although it is possible for then to fracture independently.
Stress fracture of the forearm
A stress fracture of the forearm is a hairline crack or break in either of the forearm bones and is rare although may occur in sports where repetitive strain or overloading of the forearm muscles happens such as baseball, swimming or racket sports.
A stress fracture is not likely to show up on an X-ray until the injury has already begun to heal. It is possible passing ultrasound over the site of the fracture or even using a tuning fork could stimulate vibrations in the fracture triggering pain which could help confirm the diagnosis. If a stress fracture is suspected then complete rest is required for a few weeks to allow the bone to heal.
Forearm compartment syndrome
Forearm compartment pressure syndrome is where the pressure inside a muscle compartment increases. This can be an acute injury from a contusion or bruise which causes bleeding within the muscle causing the muscle to swell up increasing pressure and causing pain in the forearm. Or a forearm compartment syndrome can be caused by the muscle becoming to big for the sheath that surrounds it through repeated exercise and overuse.
Symptoms include pain and aching in the forearm which comes on during exercise and goes away after a period of rest. A compartment pressure test can confirm the diagnosis and treatment is either conservative with rest, cold therapy and cross friction massage to increase the size of the muscle sheath or for severed and stubborn cases surgery is indicated.
Forearm splints are similar to shin splints (or periostitis) in that the periostium or sheath surround the the bone becomes inflamed due to repeated trauma from the tendons which attach to the bone. Symptoms include a dull pain in the forearm which increases with exercise. Pain is often specifically on the back of the forearm and half way between the wrist and elbow. There may also be pain when bending the wrist backwards against resistance. Tenderness may be felt when pressing in deep into the forearm.