(Broken Arm; Radial Fracture; Ulnar Fracture)
by Mary Calvagna, MS
A forearm fracture is a break in one or both bones of the forearm.
The forearm consists of two bones:
A forearm fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma may include:
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase your risk of forearm fracture include:
A forearm fracture may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, your physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The doctor will examine the injured area.
Imaging tests may include:
Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your forearm. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:
Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your forearm in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include a spint, brace, or cast. A sling may be necessary to help stabilize your arm.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.
Prescription or over-the-counter medications may be given to help reduce inflammation and pain.
Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving your child aspirin.
Rest and Recovery
Healing time varies by age and your overall health. Children and people in better overall health heal faster. In general, it takes up to 10 weeks for a fractured forearm to heal.
You will need to adjust your activities while your forearm heals, but complete rest is rarely required. Ice and elevating the leg at rest may also be recommended to help with discomfort and swelling.
As you recover, you may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises. Do not return to activities or sports until your doctor gives you permission to do so.
If you have a forearm fracture, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your chance of a forearm fracture, take these steps:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Adult forearm fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00584 . Updated July 2011. Accessed September 16, 2013.
Distal radius fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated August 24, 2013. Accessed September 16, 2013.
Preventing falls and related fractures. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.n... . Updated January 2012. Accessed September 16, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 9/30/2013