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What are Forearm Splints?

By Sarah Sullins
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Forearm splints are painful and frustrating injuries that occur most often in athletes, gymnasts, and weight trainers. This type of injury is due to tendons that are unable to stand the stress that is being placed on them. These tissues tear away from the bone or bones that they are attached to when a great amount of force is exerted on the muscles around the bones. This kind of splint is very similar to shin splints, and generally take about the same amount time to heal.

This kind of injury usually occurs most in athletes that must put a lot of pressure on their forearms. For example, in gymnasts, forearm splints could be the result of different moves that require them to place all of their weight on the arms and hands. By contrast, weightlifters do not get this kind of injury because of the amount of weight that they lift, but from the actual process of lifting and curling the weights themselves.

Sharp, progressive pain generally occurs with forearm splints. This discomfort may not start out that way, though. A person may only feel a dull, minor ache at first. Continued exercise may worsen the pain, so quick treatment is usually needed along with plenty of time off. For the first couple of days after the pain begins, rest, ice, compression, and elevation are typically used at home to treat the pain and inflammation that is caused by the torn tendons.

During this at-home treatment, a person who has experienced forearm splints should also see a doctor. A physician is usually able to correctly diagnosis the problem and treat it further. Medications for inflammation and pain may be needed, as well as physical therapy. The doctor should also be able to give the injured person an accurate time frame in which to take a break from the physical activity that caused the problem. The splints may take a few weeks to fully heal.

A break from exercising or practice sessions can cause a lot of trouble for athletes that are preparing for events or are in the middle of training. Preventing forearm splints from occurring in the first place is the best course of action, and can save many athletes a lot of time, money, and pain. Warming up before any type of sport or exercise may help to prevent these kinds of injuries. Stretching should also help tendons to become flexible and ready for a workout.

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Discussion Comments

By anon990792 — On May 10, 2015

Thank you for this article. The main problem that leads to stubborn shin splints that won't go away is people using pain relief techniques instead of focusing on identifying what's actually causing their shin splints. There's a few different causes but the most common ones are weak or inflexible calves, flat feet or overpronation, worn out or inappropriate running shoes as well as plain and simple overload as the article mentioned.

The most important thing is to identify exactly what's causing your shin splints and then along with pain relief techniques like rest and icing begin to do specific stretches and exercises to correct the underlying problems.

By Ana1234 — On Aug 15, 2013

I just want to point out that, while warming up is a great idea before a training session, most research shows that stretching isn't such a good idea. It can actually lead to more injuries, because the muscles are too stretchy to react well.

A small amount of dynamic stretching isn't too bad and can be done as the warm up, but the days of spending 15 minutes on static stretching to begin a workout should be over.

By lluviaporos — On Aug 15, 2013

@pastanaga - It's never occurred to me that you can get forearm splints, but I get shin splints sometimes. I find that easing back can often help, as can a bit of an anti inflammatory like ibuprofen. You do need to make sure you aren't trying to mask the symptoms though.

I think a forearm brace could probably help if it's a severe case, since I imagine that people end up using their forearms in stressful ways more often than their shins (when holding them for typing and things like that).

I also think if it's a sports injury, that you should probably go and get it checked out, particularly if it has only just started and you've been playing for a while. I tend to get shin splints when I am just starting a new routine, and sometimes when I'm wearing new shoes. Getting them out of the blue might be cause for concern.

By pastanaga — On Aug 14, 2013

I know from experience that athletes often conclude that the best thing to do with this kind of injury is to continue on through the pain. Unfortunately, this is the exact wrong thing to do, as the pain is caused by stress and giving it further stress is only going to make it worse.

It might be frustrating, but the best way to manage this kind of injury is to work around it, only continuing any activity up until the point where the limb starts to hurt again and then stopping.

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