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  • Writer's pictureDr Claire Chittleborough

Recovering from a forearm fracture

Forearm fractures are among the most common types of broken bones and can be some of the most complex. Surgery will often be needed to repair the damage before the rehabilitation process can begin.

It can be a long road to recovery, but a chiropractor can help. Read on to find out how!

Types of forearm fracture

There are two bones in your forearm - the radius and the ulna. The radius is the bone closest to your thumb, which is larger at the wrist, and the ulna is the bone closer to your little finger which becomes larger at the elbow (where it forms the pointy part of your elbow).

If you break your forearm, it is likely to be in one of two ways: a Colles’ fracture or a Smith’s fracture.

A Colles’ fracture is the most common, and occurs by falling onto an outstretched hand with the wrist extended (i.e. the hand is pulled back).

A Smith’s fracture is caused by either a direct blow to the forearm, or falling on an outstretched hand with the wrist flexed.

Because of the force required to break either of the forearm bones, it is more common for both to be broken together. When just one is broken, it is likely to be the ulna - usually as a result of a blow to the arm when it is raised protectively in front of the body.

Symptoms of a forearm fracture

As both bones are likely to be involved, it may already be clear to you that you have broken your arm. In addition to severe pain, your arm will likely look strangely bent or shortened, and you may need to support it with your other hand.

You may also notice swelling in the arm and you will not be able to twist it (a good time to put down the screwdriver and press pause on the DIY project). In rare cases, you might experience numbness or weakness in the fingers. All of these symptoms are very normal.

Chiropractic treatment following a forearm fracture

Where both forearm bones are broken, it is likely that surgery will be required. However, in some cases, usually where there is an isolated ulna break, non-surgical treatment may be possible.

Whether you undergo surgery or not, once the bones have been set or held together, the arm will need to be in a cast for about six weeks and you will have physical limitations during this time as the bones heal and the arm recovers.

Once the bones have been set by a doctor, a chiropractor can work with you to restore your range of motion, strength and control in the affected arm. This will mostly take place after the cast has been removed, but some treatment can take place whilst you are still in a cast. For example, certain finger movements and neck or shoulder exercises can help reduce your pain, and treatment to the spine and shoulder can help maintain your range of motion. We treat every person on a case-by-case basis, creating a treatment plan specific to them, their injury and their goals.

Once the cast is removed, you will likely experience some pain when you begin to move the arm. A chiropractor will initially focus on relieving your pain and reducing any swelling. Then we will look at stretching and strengthening exercises to help you recover movement and power in these areas. As well as working on exercises with you, we will prescribe some for you to perform at home. It may be necessary for us to mobilise your joints if your range of motion is highly compromised. This will all be discussed in your initial consultation.

As you recover strength and movement, your exercises will gradually increase in difficulty, until you are able to return to all the activities you did before the fracture - good as new!

If you’re currently getting your friends to decorate your cast, give us a call on 0413 774 399 or email us at and we’ll talk you through your recovery options and get your rehab plan sorted!

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