Most of the time, both the radius and ulna bones are broken in forearm fractures. The radius is the bone closest to the thumb and the ulna is closest to the body. A forearm fracture affects your ability to rotate your arm, and bend or straighten both the wrist and elbow.
The most common causes of forearm fractures include:
- Direct blow
- Fall on an outstretched arm, often during sports or from a height
- Automobile/motorcycle accidents
A broken forearm usually causes immediate pain. Because both bones are usually involved, forearm fractures often cause an obvious deformity—your forearm may appear bent and shorter than your other arm. You will most likely need to support your injured arm with your other hand.
Additional symptoms include:
- Bruising (not as common as in other broken bones)
- Inability to rotate arm
- Numbness or weakness in the fingers or wrist (rare)
Sometimes the bones break into pieces that may or may not be lined up. Treatment of broken bones follows one basic rule: the broken pieces must be put back into position and prevented from moving out of place until they are healed. Because the radius and ulna rely on each other for support, it is important that they are properly stabilized. If the bones are not accurately aligned during healing, it may result in future problems with wrist and elbow movement.
Most adult forearm fractures require surgery to make sure the bones are stabilized and lined up for successful healing.