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HealthInfo Canterbury

How is a broken radial head treated?

man in slingMost radial head fractures are treated by putting your arm in a sling to rest it while it heals. But sometimes a complex break may need surgery.

The way your broken radial head will be treated depends on many different factors, including:

If the break is unstable, the bone has shattered into many pieces, or the break includes the joint surface, you may need surgery to put the pieces back into the right place and hold them there until you heal.

Less complex breaks that are stable (meaning the bones don't move around) usually don't need surgery. Instead, you will need to wear a broad arm sling to stop you using the arm while it heals

Whether you need surgery or not, you will probably need time off work while you heal.

How can I help my arm to heal?

There are some things that you can do to help your recovery if you don't need surgery.

Exercises after a broken radial head

When your doctor or surgeon tells you it's OK (usually a week or two after your injury) take your arm out of the sling two to three times a day to do these exercises. Aim to do each exercise 10 times.

1. To reduce swelling, clench your hand and release your fist.


2. Raise your arm above your head.

3. Bend and straighten your elbow.

4. Turn your palm up and down, keeping your elbow still.

On the next page: Surgery for a broken radial head

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by orthopaedic surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Page created May 2017.


See also:

Living with an injury

Page reference: 373159

Review key: HISHI-13267