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Forearm Fracture

A forearm fracture is a break in one or both bones of the forearm.

The forearm consists of two bones:

  • Radius — the smaller of the two bones, runs along the thumb side of your arm
  • Ulna — the larger of the two bones, runs along the little finger side of your arm

Forearm Fracture with Swelling

forearm fracture

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A forearm fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma may include:

  • Fall on an outstretched arm
  • Fall directly on the forearm
  • Direct blow to the forearm
  • Twisting the arm beyond the elbow's normal range of motion


Factors that may increase your risk of forearm fracture include:

  • Advanced age
  • Osteoporosis
  • Certain diseases or conditions that result in bone or mineral loss, such as abnormal or absent menstrual cycles or post- menopause
  • Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors or cysts
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain congenital bone conditions
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Participating in contact sports
  • Violence


A forearm fracture may cause:

  • Pain, often severe
  • Tenderness, swelling and bruising around the injury
  • Decreased range of motion
  • A lump or visible deformity over the fracture site

Diagnosis & Treatment

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, your physical activity and how the injury occurred. Your doctor will examine the injured area.

Imaging tests may include:

  • X-rays to look for a break in the forearm area.
  • CT scan to look at the cartilage and tendons around the forearm. In complex fractures of both bones, it may be used to help reconstruct the bones.

Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your forearm. 

Initial Care

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 with or without surgery.


Prescription or over-the-counter medications may help reduce inflammation and pain. Medications may include acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Rest and Recovery

Healing time varies by age and your overall health. 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 help with discomfort and swelling.

Your doctor may refer you 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.


To help reduce your chance of a forearm fracture, take these steps:

  • Do not put yourself at risk for trauma to the bone.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when driving or riding in a car.
  • Do weight-bearing and strengthening exercises regularly to build strong bones.
  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.


Call us at 434.243.3675.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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