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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Treating a broken forearm

Te whakarauora i te kokowhiti kua whati ki ngā pakeke

Broken arm slingThe way your broken forearm will be treated depends on many different things, including:

You may need surgery to put the broken bone back into the right place and hold it there until it heals if:

Less complex breaks that are stable (the bones do not move around) usually do not need surgery but will need a cast to hold them in the right place while they heal.

Sometimes a break seems to be stable and is put in a cast, but as the swelling goes down, the broken bones move apart and need surgery to put them back in place. For this reason, you'll have regular X-rays while your arm is in a cast to make sure the bones stay in the right place while they're healing.

Treatment with a cast

Your hand and arm will be put into a cast to hold the bones in place and stop them from moving. The cast will probably start near your knuckles and go halfway up your upper arm with your arm bent at 90 degrees. This helps to keep your forearm bones in the right place while they're healing.

You'll wear the cast for six weeks but can probably start doing some gentle hand exercises after three weeks.

You'll still have to take special care of your forearm once the cast comes off. The same exercises that help with a broken hand or wrist will help with your broken forearm.

Surgery for a broken forearm

If you need surgery for your broken forearm, an orthopaedic (bone) surgeon will do it.

Exactly what surgery you have will depend on what type of break you have. Your surgeon will talk to you about what it involves, the risks, benefits and how you're likely to recover.

Your surgery will involve some metal (usually a plate and screws and occasionally wires) to line up your bones properly and support them while they heal.

You'll probably spend one to two nights in hospital and your arm will be in a splint for up to six weeks.

You'll need some weeks off work after surgery. How much will depend on your injury and the type of work you do.

For two to three months after surgery you will not be able to lift or carry anything with the injured arm. You should also avoid sport or any other activity that may make your injury worse. Your surgeon will let you know when it's safe to start doing these things again.

Getting help for a broken forearm

If you have any worries about how you're healing or have a lot of pain, see your general practice team.

If your arm feels stiff after the pain has gone and you're no longer wearing a sling, see a physiotherapist who can help you with exercises and help strengthen your arm.

ACC may be able to provide help while you aren't fit for work, such as home help or taxis to appointment as well as work compensation payments.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed July 2022.


See also:

ACC help after an injury

Living with an injury

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