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What Are the Signs of a Sprained Forearm?

By Madeleine A.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Signs of a sprained forearm include pain, bruising, and swelling. A sprained forearm may be a sports injury, or caused by exercise or abnormally turning the arm during physical activity. Although sprains are typically mild, a severe sprain may cause significant disability, causing extended sessions of physical or occupational therapy. Depending upon the severity of the sprain, recovery times can range from one week to 12 weeks.

A sprain can be caused by a sudden or unexpected movement and can occur when the body is not sufficiently warmed up prior to exercising. Exercising while fatigued can also cause a sprain. An MRI or x-ray may be used to diagnose a sprained forearm, however, traditional x-rays are typically not effective in diagnosing soft tissue injuries. When an injury occurs, immediate medical evaluation and treatment may improve the outcome, as delaying treatment may cause further damage to surrounding ligaments and other structures of the forearm.

Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or other pain reliever can help relieve symptoms of a sprained forearm. Although pain relievers such as acetaminophen-based analgesics can help reduce pain, they do little to reduce swelling and inflammation. Ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen sodium can help reduce inflammation as well as pain, but can cause abnormal bleeding and stomach upset. In rare instances, anti-inflammatory medications can cause kidney damage and may even lead to kidney failure.

Icing the sprained forearm can also help reduce pain and inflammation. Combined with anti-inflammatory medications, ice may help hasten recovery and improve circulation. Ice should never be applied directly to the skin, and should be wrapped in a soft cloth or placed in an ice bag. Wrapping the forearm may also help relieve symptoms and stabilize the arm while it is healing. The compression bandage should not be applied too tightly to avoid impeding the circulation and hindering recovery.

Elevating the arm higher than the heart can also help reduce swelling. Although most people respond well to over-the-counter pain relievers, some may require prescription pain relievers. These medications are usually codeine or opioid based and can cause side effects, including profound drowsiness, dizziness, and blurred vision. In addition, stomach upset, constipation and headache may occur. Driving and operating dangerous machinery should be avoided when taking prescription medications and they should only be taken when monitored closely by a health care professional.

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Discussion Comments
By Raynbow — On May 25, 2014

@heavanet- I would not take the risk of creating a more serious problem by avoiding a visit to your doctor for this problem. You could have torn a tendon or even dislocated a bone when you fell. The fact that you are still having pain is a sign that you need to make an appointment with your doctor.

By Heavanet — On May 24, 2014

I was wondering if anyone has advice about when to seek medical treatment for a sprained forearm. I twisted my right arm a few weeks ago during a fall, but cold compresses and acetaminophen seemed to help relieve the pain and swelling. However, after about a week, the pain returned. I keep thinking it will go away with extra rest and by not using my arm too much for a while.

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