Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Broken forearm

Kikowhiti tāwhatiwhati

The radius and ulna are the two long bones in your forearm (between your hand and your elbow). This page explains what happens when you break (or fracture) one or both of these bones. There are separate pages about breaks that happen at the elbow end of these bones or near your wrist.

A broken forearm usually happens from falling onto an outstretched hand or from swinging arm injuries. Serious accidents, such as car accidents, motorcycle accidents or falls from a ladder cause more serious breaks.

Your forearm can break in many different ways and some breaks are worse than others. It's common to break both your radius and ulna together.

If you've broken your forearm, it will be painful and swollen. It may be hard to use your hand or wrist. Your arm may seem to be deformed because it's swollen or a bone is out of place.

You may just feel pain where it's broken or whenever you move your fingers. Your fingers may tingle or your fingertips may be numb. Make sure you remove any rings from your fingers before they start to swell.

Diagnosing a broken forearm

If you think you may have broken a bone in your forearm, it's important to see a doctor. They will ask about how your injury happened, look at your arm and hand and take X-rays to find out which bone is broken and what kind of break it is. They may X-ray above and below where you're sore to check if you have any other nearby injuries. You might also need a CT scan, which can show a complex break more clearly or an MRI, to show any soft tissue injury.

Self-care for a broken forearm

There are several things you can do to help your forearm heal, whether or not you're having surgery.

Treating a broken forearm

Some breaks will be treated by putting your arm in a cast. Others will need surgery

On the next page: Treating a broken forearm

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.

Sources

See also:

Broken bones first aid

Broken forearm in children

Page reference: 131990

Review key: HISHI-13267