(Broken Arm; Radial Fracture; Ulnar Fracture)
A forearm fracture is a break in one or both bones of the forearm.
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This injury is caused by trauma from:
- Fall on an outstretched hand
- Direct blow to the forearm
- An object in the air that hits the forearm
- A motor vehicle accident
Things that may raise the risk of this injury are:
- Playing contact sports
- Health problems that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis
- Health problems that result in falls, such as weak muscles
A forearm fracture may cause:
- Pain that is worse when moving the arm
- Swelling and bruising
- Problems moving the arm
- A change in the way the arm looks
The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and injury. An exam will be done that focuses on your arm. Images may be taken of the arm. This can be done with:
How it is treated depends on whether the injury is mild or severe. Mild fractures may take 4 to 6 weeks, more severe fractures can take up to 12 weeks.
Bones Are In Place
A fracture can be a break or a small split in the bone. The bone may not break into separate pieces. A splint or cast will help to support the bone to keep the break from getting worse. Ice and medicine will help to manage pain and swelling.
Some fractures can cause pieces of bone to come apart. There may also be more than one break in the bone. More steps will be needed to help this type of fracture. These pieces will need to be put back into place in 1 of 2 ways:
- The doctor manipulate the arm to move bone pieces back into place. A splint or cast will keep them in place. Medicine will be used during the procedure to help ease pain while
- Surgery will be done to put the bones back in to place. Pins, screws, plates, or wires may be needed to keep the pieces in place. Most will be inside the body. Internal fixation is a device that sits outside of the skin to help support bones.
Physical or occupational therapy may be needed to regain movement after the bones heal. Movement of the hands may be affected by severe injuries.
Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with this type of fracture will need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.
Most fractures are due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may prevent injury. This may be done through diet and exercise.
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
Adult forearm fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00584. Accessed September 25, 2020.
Distal radius fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/distal-radius-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed September 25, 2020.
Niver GE, Ilyas AM. Carpal tunnel syndrome after distal radius fracture. Orthop Clin North Am. 2012 Oct;43(4):521-527.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM Last Updated: 8/25/2020