Why It Hurts When You Make a Fist: Causes & Treatments

Why It Hurts When You Make a Fist: Causes & Treatments

Have you ever clenched your hand into a fist and felt a twinge in your forearm? Various factors can trigger this common issue, from simple overuse to more complex medical conditions. Repetitive activities involving your hand and wrist, like typing, are often the leading cause.

A solid prevention and treatment plan is crucial to avoid further instances or complications. A forearm massager, stretching exercises, rest, and ice therapy are some of the best options.

Common Causes of Forearm Pain

You've been experiencing discomfort in your forearm and wonder why it hurts to make a fist. Forearm pain can stem from various factors, including overused muscles, inflammation, and nerve damage.

Muscle Strain

An overworked or torn muscle in your forearm can lead to considerable pain. This pain often arises from repetitive motions such as typing or lifting heavy objects. An acute fall, blow, or excessive twisting or bending injury can cause muscle strain.

Repetitive Strain

Frequent computer or mobile device use may result in repetitive strain, which can cause discomfort in the forearm. A combination of overuse, inadequate breaks, poor technique, and insufficient recovery time can all contribute to developing strain in the forearm muscles.

Tennis Elbow or Golfer's Elbow

You may have heard of conditions like tennis elbow (tendinitis on the outside) and golfer's elbow (tendinitis on the inside of the elbow). These originate from inflammation or tiny tears in the forearm's muscles and tendons. When these tendons are inflamed due to injury or repetitive movement, they can lead to pain in the forearm when making a fist or performing other activities.


Tendinitis often occurs because of overloading the forearm muscles. This can result from repeatedly performing the same motions- whether swinging a tennis racket, painting a picture, or performing other habitual wrist and elbow motions.

Nerve Compression

The median nerve in your arm can get compressed, resulting in Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). The pain may radiate up your forearm, causing discomfort. The inflammation can cause numbness in your hand and arm, making actions like making a fist quite painful. It's commonly associated with repetitive wrist movements like typing long hours on a keyboard. 

Risk Factors for Forearm Pain

Two key factors can significantly contribute to forearm pain: overuse of the muscles and tendons in your forearm and poor ergonomics.

Overuse of your forearm muscles is the most common cause of forearm pain. The time people spend gripping or using computer mice can make their forearm muscles overused and tired. Conditions such as tenosynovitis, medial epicondylitis (golfer's elbow), and lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), among others, can arise from this overuse. Repetitive activities exacerbate these conditions, including everyday activities like racquet sports and sewing.

Occupational requirements, like typing, can indirectly hurt your hand and forearm if you perform them with poor ergonomics. This can eventually lead to conditions like CTS. Ergonomic products designed to alleviate some of these symptoms, such as ergonomic vertical mice, can improve your wrist posture, reducing stress on your forearm muscles. 

Prevention & Treatment

Dealing with forearm pain can be a considerable challenge. Fortunately, you can manage and even prevent this discomfort with the right exercises, techniques, and treatment methods.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling is a popular and effective treatment for managing forearm pain. A form of self-myofascial release, foam rolling alleviates muscle tightness, soreness, and inflammation. By rolling the foam roller over the area of discomfort, you can help break up adhesions and scar tissue that contribute to your pain. It also helps increase flexibility and mobility, aiding overall pain relief and recovery.

Stretching Exercises

Regular elbow and arm stretching in physical therapy (PT) and at home can speed up recovery by enhancing range of motion. One notable benefit of stretching is its ability to maintain a good range of motion in your elbow and wrist. It is recommended that you practice these exercises on both sides of your body. This way, you are not just eliminating symptoms but also preventing their reoccurrence.

Using Proper Technique

Adopting proper techniques at work, during leisure activities, and workouts can help reduce your risk of forearm pain. If repetitive tasks at your job prompt symptoms, discussing more breaks or workspace changes with your employer could be beneficial. For athletes and fitness enthusiasts, incorporating strength and flexibility exercises into your routine can reduce risks. Remember to warm up adequately before any physically demanding activity.

Rest & Ice

Always appreciate the power of rest and ice in dealing with forearm pain. Periods of rest can heal inflammation in your tendons affected by repetitive actions. A cold compress or ice pack after exercise or physical activity can prevent any return of swelling and inflammation.

When to See a Doctor

When your forearm hurts just by making a fist, it's a sign that something's amiss in your body, particularly your muscles or nerves. Here are some instances where it'd be wise to see a doctor.

Persistent Pain

Suppose you're experiencing persistent pain in your forearms, especially during exertion. In that case, booking an appointment with your doctor is a definite sign. Persistent pain is abnormal and could signal a chronic condition, underlying injury, or severe muscle strain. 

Numbness or Tingling

Experiencing intermittent numbness, tingling, or unusual sensory sensations in your arms or hands, mainly if they last no longer than a few minutes, is a cause for concern. These symptoms could indicate nerve involvement, which, if left untreated, might lead to more severe conditions like neurogenic TOS.

Cubital Tunnel Syndrome

This condition involves inflammation and pinching of your nerves against bones or cartilage inside your elbow joint after excessive bending or pressure on the joint. Though rare, it is a severe condition that could result in permanent damage if not treated in time.

Vascular Conditions

Symptoms could point to vascular conditions like deep vein thrombosis, a clot in a vein near the elbow leading to swelling, skin discoloration, and numbness or tingling in your forearm and hand.

If these signs persist longer than a few minutes, immediate medical attention is recommended. But be aware you should only use them as pointers and not definitive diagnoses — the best course of action is a thorough check-up by a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment pathway.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a forearm strain feel like?

A forearm strain typically results in pain during movement, especially involving your hands, and might cause discomfort at night. Your muscles may feel stiff, and swelling might be present. Severe strains will include the loss of strength and more intense pain.

Why does my forearm hurt when I clench my fist?

Forearm pain while gripping is most commonly due to a condition known as tennis elbow or lateral epicondylitis. This is due to chronic tendon inflammation from its continuous use and strain.

How long does a forearm strain last?

An arm muscle strain typically takes a few weeks to months to heal, depending on the injury's extent and the damage's severity. Mild cases recover quicker as only a few muscle fibers are torn or stretched.

How do you treat forearm pain?

Home treatments, like foam rolling, a cold compress, or an ice pack, can reduce forearm and/or elbow inflammation. 

When should I be concerned about forearm pain?

If your forearm pain stems from a bone fracture, damaged joints, or injured nerves, it's cause for concern. If you see a visible bone fracture in your forearm or hear clicking, popping, or crunching sounds associated with a forearm injury, seek immediate medical assistance.

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