Have You Got Forearm Fatigue?

by | Jun 12, 2024 | Forearms, Other, Self Help | 0 comments

Spring/early Summer is always a time when I see an increase in people coming to me with forearm issues. They typically experience some combination of pain in their elbows, tightness in their forearms and numbness in their fingers and thumbs. They often preface their explanation by saying ‘I don’t know why I have this issue as I’ve done nothing different…except some gardening… ‘

Gardening is not really regarded as a hardcore exercise format but it is very repetitive and at the beginning of the growing season there are usually unruly shrubs, lawns and borders to be dealt with. If the weather is nice (and that’s always a bit of an ‘if’ at the moment) the temptation is to keep going just to finish off that shrub/lawn/border.

Whether you’re pruning, mowing or digging, these are all repetitive movements that require some force while gripping your garden implement of choice. This in itself is quite hard work for your forearms. However if you add in the fact that most of us generally spend longer than we’d like on computers, phones and other devices, we are going into gardening season with our forearms already compromised by tapping on keyboards and screens.

The forearms take the brunt of any activities where you also need to use your fingers and thumbs for fine movements (see any of the above) as they contain the muscles that operate these digits.

Forearm Muscles

In fact your forearms contain a whopping 20 muscles each all packed into what is quite a tight space. If you take a moment to feel your forearms ,which are just that approximately 20cm of space between your elbows and wrists, it’s quite incredible to think that there are so many muscles in there.

The reason they can all fit in is that they are all very small and they are arranged in layers or squashed into tight rows. Between them they can curl and extend your fingers and thumbs, flex your elbows (think bicep curls here), pivot and rotate your forearms and hands. There are also 4 muscles in your forearms dedicated to moving just your thumbs.

The forearm muscles attach into 2 common tendons at the elbows – one each for the muscles on the top and bottom of your forearms. Each of these muscles have their own fascial wrappings and the whole of your forearms are encased in fascial sheaths a bit like evening gloves which allow free movement of the muscles. At your elbows and wrists there are further fascial wrapping that reinforcement and support the joints.

Forearm Overuse

So many muscles means lots of flexibility of movement but it also means lots of tiny muscles that can easily get fatigued. As they fatigue they get irritated (don’t we all?!) which causes localised inflammation changing the fluidity of the fascia surrounding them and creating restrictions.

Depending on where they form the restrictions can pull on the common tendons at the elbow creating tennis or golfers elbow, or the attachments to the fingers and thumbs causing pain and numbness especially when trying to grip. In severe cases the forearm muscles can restrict so much that they begin to resemble pieces of wood rather than elastic tissues.

From the muscle point of view the cause of their fatigue is overuse. It doesn’t matter how they have been overused, but often gardening can be the tipping point of muscles already under pressure from computer work.

If you have sore or tight forearms, or any of the associated pains and symptoms of their overuse, it is a good idea to start the myofascial exercises in our Fascial Fix for Forearms to help release some of the underlying restrictions contributing to these. If you’d like more information and further exercises then you can buy our All About Forearms Class in our online shop.



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