From Tennis Elbow to Wrist Fractures: How We Treat Common Lower Arm Injuries

If you have an acute or overuse injury of your forearm or wrist, you’re unable to perform some of the simple daily tasks you normally take for granted, like brushing your teeth or using the computer — especially if the injury is in your dominant arm or hand.

Your forearm has two bones: the radius and the ulna. Your wrist has eight small bones. Most forearm injuries are soft-tissue injuries that don’t need surgery, unlike some wrist injuries. 

Board-certified Orthopaedic Surgeon Matthew C. Shillito, MD of San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center treats forearm and wrist injuries. Whether you’ve suffered a fall and broken a bone or you have tendonitis from overuse, Dr. Shillito, who specializes in hand and elbow pathology, offers expert diagnosis and treatment.  

Treatment of soft tissue injuries in the forearm 

Tendinitis is a common injury of the forearm. Your tendons connect your muscles to your bones. If you play tennis, you may suffer from tennis elbow; overuse has caused tiny tears in the tendon where it connects to the bone, and you experience pain on the outside of the elbow. 

Tennis elbow can affect anyone who uses repetitive movements involving the forearm, not just tennis players. House painters, carpenters, butchers, and those in other occupations that use the forearm frequently suffer from tennis elbow more often than the general population.  

Golfers typically suffer a form of tendinitis  called golfer’s elbow on the inside of the elbow. It’s a completely different injury than tennis elbow. Anyone using repetitive movements involving the wrist such as flexing or twisting, as in gardening or throwing a ball, is more prone to golfer’s elbow, not just golfers. 

Tendinitis treatment 

You’ve irritated your tendon and it’s inflamed. You need to give your tendon a break. That means taking time out from the behavior that’s the culprit. Once Dr. Shillito diagnoses tendonitis, he recommends RICE therapy — rest, ice, compression, and elevation — along with pain relievers. He may prescribe a stronger pain reliever than you can get over the counter.  

Rest

Resting the arm is critical. Your doctor may decide that a brace, splint, or sling is appropriate and lets you know how long you should wear it. 

Ice

You can ice the area several times during the day; always use an ice pack or towel so your skin isn’t directly exposed to the ice. 

Compression

Dr. Shillito may recommend a compression sleeve for the forearm or part of it. He’ll let you know how many hours a day and how many weeks you should wear it. 

Elevation

Your forearm is going to feel better when you rest it on a pillow when sitting or sleeping and when it’s in a sling when you’re upright. 

Exercises or physical therapy 

Depending on your injury, Dr. Shillito provides you with instructions for specific stretches and exercises or recommends physical therapy once the inflammation has calmed. The therapy helps you regain range of motion and full function. 

Wrist fractures 

Perhaps you’ve fallen and broken your wrist. The type of break you have is going to decide what type of treatment your doctor orders. 

If your fracture doesn’t require surgery, your doctor may provide you with a splint or a cast to help ensure proper placement of the bones and wrist support. You’ll typically wear either for five or six weeks and then enter physical therapy to regain range of motion. 

If you need surgery, pins or screws are used to hold the bones in place. The pins may be temporary. After surgery, you’ll wear a cast or splint followed by physical therapy like non-surgical patients. 

You can count on Dr. Shillito to help you regain function after an injury and help you learn preventive strategies for avoiding overuse injuries. Call San Diego Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center or book an appointment online today for all of your orthopaedic needs.

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