What's up with my forearm?
September 29, 2006 7:28 AM   Subscribe

Ow! What can I do about a pain I'm experiencing in my forearm assocated with weight lifting?

I work out regularly, focusing on lifting weights/strength training. The location of the pain is on a certain part of my forearm. If I were to hold my arm out straight with my knuckles towards the ceiling and my palm facing the ground, the pain is mostly felt on the outer part of my forearm. Or, put another way (though I'm sure this is obvious), I feel the pain on the inner part of my forearm (nearest to my body) when doing bicep curls (this is basically the exercise during which I feel the pain). The pain is at its height during the excerise and fades (but is still felt) shortly after.

This isn't soreness from not having worked out in a while (as seems to be the case in this question, as I've been working out regularly for roughly 4 months now. It occurs to me that another way to describe the pain is to compare it to shin splints (which I remember getting maybe 6 or 7 years ago when I ran a lot), though, of course, I have no idea if the same principle is present in this case; just feels kind of similar. I use gloves with wrist wraps and haven't really felt any of this pain until maybe a week or two ago. It was very minor at first and didn't faze me for a few days, but today the pain was very noticable and I didn't completely finish the bicep exercises I normally do because of it. Again, I'm really feeling almost exclusively while doing dumbell bicep curls.

So what do you think this is? How can I avoid it? And what can I do in the meantime to remedy the situation now and get back to my regular workout schedule without really injuring myself [further?] (schedule is usually 1 day: chest/tricep, 2nd day: bicep/back, 3rd day: legs/shoulders, 4th day: rest, rinse/repeat). Also, yes, I know a doctor's advice would be helpful here, but I'm asking MeFi anyway.
posted by Stauf to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)
i'd cut the bicep exercise for a few rotations, and see if that helps. also take notice of what movements make it hurt. it sounds like you've strained some kind of tendon in there.

most of all: if it hurts, even a little bit--stop. this isn't part of that no pain/no gain credo. pusing an injury before it fully heals will only prolong the healing time.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:48 AM on September 29, 2006

oh, and after you're healed, do some work on your forearm muscles.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 7:49 AM on September 29, 2006

Hey, my two weight-lifting partners get this in exactly the same place you describe. They feel it more with preacher curls than dumbbell curls, however.

Our theory is it's the forearm equivalent of shin-splints. They remedied the situation using by wrapping the forearm up the elbow while they lifted (One of them who had it really bad spent a couple of full days with the forearm wrapped up), stopping entirely the exercise that hurt the most, and dropping the weight a couple of weeks to allow the forearm to recover.

Add forearm exercises, forward and backward, probably on your bicep day. You gotta make sure the stabilizers there are strong enough to support the weight you're curling. The wrist roller is my personal favorite.
posted by schroedinger at 7:52 AM on September 29, 2006

It sounds like your gloves may be part -- if not all -- of the problem. To compensate for the slipperiness of the gloves, your forearms are pulling more than their share of weight.

Try lifting without the gloves. Sure, you'll have permanent callouses eventually. But these will make for tougher, hardier palms. And you'll see a big difference in the ease of holding and moving the weight during your curls.
posted by Gordion Knott at 8:12 AM on September 29, 2006

I used to get those when doing bicep curls at high repetitions. I've actually even gotten them on various cardio machines where you hold onto a set of moving handles and swing your arms as you go. I think it just means your forearm muscles are tired.
posted by Hildago at 8:32 AM on September 29, 2006

Sounds like a version of tendonitis to me. How about some rest and anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen etc.)?
posted by bim at 8:37 AM on September 29, 2006

Reading your question more carefully, you've already compared it to shin-splints. OK then!
posted by schroedinger at 8:38 AM on September 29, 2006

Sounds like it could be a tendon. Do some very gentle but persistent stretching for both biceps and forearms before and after you lift.
posted by callmejay at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2006

If someone nearby has one of those tennis elbow armbands, you might try that as well. I get it REALLY bad when I play some sports, but that thing is MAGICAL.
posted by cebailey at 9:05 AM on September 29, 2006

There is no over training, there is only under-eating and under-sleeping.

Are you getting enough sleep, protein, and omega 3? Stretching won't help, cutting back won't help, but understanding what the body needs to recover and helping it get there will get you there.

Note: Cutting back will help because it will reduce the recovery cost that you are paying. Sleeping and eating more will increase how much you have to "pay with".
posted by ewkpates at 9:08 AM on September 29, 2006

What is happening is the increased musculature in your forearm is twitching nerves in your arm. Happens to many athletes who do arm intensive excersizes (from weightlifters to tennis players).

For example, Marcos Baghdatis had to have surgery to fix this problem in his dominant forearm etc etc

I've had the sensation in small doses from lifting. I reccomend stretching thoroughly before excersizes. Never push your baseline musculature too far out of proportion. Warm up your forearms with simple rollup excersizes and wrist down stretches. Don't focus so much on any one muscle (e.g. arms), try to stick to a sense of proportionality. It will give your other muscles more time to rest and keep you from hurting yourself.

Slow and steady...
posted by stratastar at 9:41 AM on September 29, 2006

If the pain is near the elbow it could be an early warning of medial epicondylitis, a form of tendonitis known as golfer's elbow. Similar to tennis elbow, and the same forearm strap helps to minimize the symptoms. It's real tough to get rid of once it sets in, so back off now and baby it if you suspect this diagnosis.

Generally caused by muscle imbalances and overuse. Focus on stretching and exercising antagonistic muscles when you ease back into a routine after rehab.
posted by Manjusri at 12:03 PM on September 29, 2006

I'm going to reiterate what Manjusri said about golfer's elbow being impossible to get rid of. I've had it for years, and there's been plenty of rest and attempted rehab work. Never tried the straps, though... hmmm...
posted by MrZero at 4:06 PM on September 29, 2006

i get something that sounds like what you're describing (though i'm not sure, really) but only when i was doing curls with a flat barbell.

try this: put one arm out with your hand held as if you were holding a torch or some stick-like object straight up. put your other hand on your bicep, and then rotate your imaginary torch to the outside, so that your knuckles point down. feel your bicep move, how it's pulling on the bottom of your forearm? if that's where it hurts, it's the same thing i had.

anyway i think lifting with your hands in that knuckles-downwards position puts a lot of stress on that part of the forearm, which is already at its maximum range of motion (this is why your elbows go into your sides when you do curls). instead try doing the dumbbell curls with your hands in the torch-up position. for me using one of those bendy bars worked well enough.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:40 PM on September 29, 2006

See a physical therapist. They will be able to tell you exactly what it is, how to avoid it, and how to keep you from letting it turn into something more serious. If you take your muscles seriously, see a musculoskeletal expert. That's a PT.

And, with all due respect, as a physical therapy student who is totally not in any way qualified to even give advice over the intenet, there is some not so fantastic advice in this thread. Get to a PT. They'll help you out.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:41 AM on October 1, 2006

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