Page header image

Forearm Fracture

What is a forearm fracture?

A forearm fracture is a crack or break in one or both of the 2 bones in your lower arm. The 2 bones are the:

  • radius (on the thumb side of your arm)
  • ulna (on the little-finger side of your arm)

What is the cause?

A forearm fracture usually happens from:

  • a fall onto an outstretched arm or hand
  • a direct hit to the arm

What are the symptoms?

When the arm is broken, you may hear a snapping or popping sound. Symptoms may include:

  • pain, swelling, bruising, or tenderness
  • trouble moving the arm
  • a change in the shape of the arm

How is it diagnosed?

Your provider will ask about the symptoms and how the injury happened. He or she will examine your child. Your child will have X-rays of the arm.

A child's bones are different from an adult’s bones in a couple ways. A child’s bones are more flexible and may crack rather than break. Or they may just buckle slightly. Also, the bones are still growing from areas near the ends of the bones called growth plates. A fracture in a growth plate may affect the growth of the bone but it may be hard to see with X-rays. Sometimes special tests are needed to diagnose fractures in the growth plate.

How is it treated?

The treatment depends on the type of fracture. If the broken bone is crooked, your healthcare provider will straighten it. Your child will be given some medicine first so the straightening is not painful. Sometimes surgery is needed to put the bones back into the correct position.

The injured arm may be put in a splint or cast to keep it from moving while it heals.

How can I take care of my child?

Follow the full course of treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. Also:

  • To keep swelling down and help relieve pain, your healthcare provider may tell you to:
    • Put an ice pack, gel pack, or package of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth on the injured area every 3 to 4 hours for up to 20 minutes at a time for the first day or two after the injury.
    • Keep the injured arm up on pillows when your child sits or lies down.
    • Give your child pain medicine, such as ibuprofen, as directed by your provider. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may cause stomach bleeding and other problems. These risks increase with age. Read the label and take as directed. Unless recommended by your healthcare provider, your child should not take the medicine for more than 10 days. Check with your healthcare provider before you give any medicine that contains aspirin or salicylates to a child or teen. This includes medicines like baby aspirin, some cold medicines, and Pepto-Bismol. Children and teens who take aspirin are at risk for a serious illness called Reye's syndrome.
  • If your child has a cast, make sure the cast does not get wet. Cover the cast with plastic when your child bathes. Avoid scratching the skin around the cast or poking things down the cast. This could cause an infection.

Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests. Call your healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has more pain, redness, warmth, or swelling.
  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has a loss of feeling in the injured area.
  • The injured arm looks pale, blue, or feels cold.

How can a forearm fracture be prevented?

Most forearm fractures are caused by accidents that are not easy to prevent.

Written by Pierre Rouzier, MD.
Pediatric Advisor 2012.2 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-01-30
Last reviewed: 2012-01-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2012 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
Page footer image