As most people probably assume, broken bones can affect people differently depending on age and health. If you get into a car accident, one of the most common breaks that result is in the forearms. You may take much of the impact of the crash through your arms, causing fractures along the length of the bones. The wrist, fingers, near the elbow or other areas could fracture easily depending on the angle at which you’re holding the wheel and the force of the impact.
After a crash, it’s usually necessary to go to the hospital right away. There, you’ll likely go through imaging tests to determine how serious the breaks are. Acute breaks may require surgery to “pin” the bones back together and set them. In rare cases, an amputation may be necessary for badly-injured arms.
The anatomy of a broken arm
The forearm is designed to help you turn your palms up and down. The radius, the bone closest to your thumb when your arms are to your side with palms up, turns around the ulna, allowing you to move in a spinning motion. A forearm fracture has the potential to make this movement impossible, along with being unable to straighten or bend your elbow or wrist.
If the break is exposed through the skin, it’s likely a medical emergency. If the bones snapped and penetrated the skin, that now opens you up to infection and blood loss. These breaks often require surgery to clean out the wounds and reset the bones.
Forearm breaks normally hurt immediately. There is typically an abnormality in the shape of the arm as well. Swelling, numbness, weakness and bruising are normal.
Diagnosing a broken forearm
While a visual inspection of the wound may suggest a broken arm, it’s best to get X-rays or other imaging tests done to verify the severity of the wound. The X-ray shows how the bone is broken, so it’s clear if there is a gap between your bones or if it’s still in place. If shards broke free, the X-ray is likely to catch them on the image, so the doctor knows to consider surgery.
In some cases, broken bones that are out of place are reset in the emergency room without surgery. Shattered bones typically require more intensive treatment with surgical intervention.
You’ll need pain medications for most broken bones, at least in the immediate time after injury. Ice provides relief from swelling, while a cast or splint holds the bones in place as they heal. With good treatment, in most cases, it will take three to six months to heal fully.