It may not seem like it, but your forearm – the length of arm between your wrist and elbow – is made up of two bones, called the radius and the ulna. If your arms are hanging at your sides with your palms facing back, the radius is the bone facing toward your body, and the ulna is the bone facing away from it. Most instances of forearm fracture involve the breaking of both of these bones, but if you break either of them, you are considered to have fractured your forearm. If the radius and the ulna are not functioning properly, your wrist and elbow cannot move correctly.
If you think you may have fractured your forearm, it is imperative that you seek medical attention. Forearm fractures can lead to complications that have the potential to cause lifelong disability. Forearm fractures are notoriously unstable – even when they are put into a splint or a cast and made immobile. The bone must be stabilized in order for it to mend correctly. And the bone must mend correctly in order for you to regain your full range of motion in your elbow and wrist. The forearm is necessary in order for you to be able to twist objects – such as a light bulb, bottle cap or screwdriver. The radius rotating around the ulna makes your wrist’s twisting motion. Forearm health is also necessary for extending and bending the wrist and the elbow.
Anatomy of the Forearm
The two bones of the forearm have reverse shapes. The ulna starts large where it meets the elbow (it is the bone that makes up the elbow’s pointy end) and tapers small by the time it reaches the wrist. The radius starts large at the wrist and tapers down in size toward the elbow. The forearm consists of the following:
Types of Forearm Fractures
Forearm Fractures can be divided into five main types:
Causes of Forearm Fractures
A forearm fracture is generally the result of a fall or a blow to the arm. The following are the causes of forearm fractures:
Symptoms of Forearm Fractures
Different types of forearm fracture have different symptoms, as they occur in different locations. The symptoms of forearm bone shaft fractures are generalizable, though: You will feel extreme pain immediately. You arm may look shorter than your uninjured arm, and crooked – especially if both the radius and the ulna have been fractured. Your arm will not have the strength to support itself; you will have to do so with the hand of your uninjured arm. The arm will swell and bruise. You will be unable to rotate it. Additionally, the wrist and the fingers may become weak and numb (though this is not likely). If you fracture your distal radius, your wrist will be in severe pain. It will be tender and it will bruise and swell. The wrist may hang limply. If your fracture your elbow, you will feel pain. You will be unable to extend your arm. Your elbow will swell and bruise. Some of your fingers will likely feel numb and moving the elbow will be painful.
The following are common forearm fracture symptoms:
The symptoms of forearm fracture may be mistaken for the symptoms of other medical conditions (tennis elbow, tendonitis, etc.). Make sure you consult a doctor in order to determine if you have a forearm fracture and get the appropriate treatment.
The multidisciplinary team of orthopaedic experts at North Shore-LIJ Orthopaedic Institute's Trauma Services in New York treats Forearm Fractures as well as a broad range of conditions that affect the bones within the body.