An Overview of Ulnar Styloid Fractures

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A fracture of the ulnar styloid is a common type of wrist injury. This is a break at the end of the ulna, or the bony part of your wrist next to your pinky finger. This part of your wrist is also called the ulnar styloid process.

This article discusses ulnar styloid fractures, what causes them, and how they are diagnosed and treated.

Woman with arm in a cast
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Symptoms of an Ulnar Styloid Fracture

The symptoms of a broken wrist, including an ulnar styloid fracture, include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Wrist hanging or bent in an odd angle

Common Causes of Ulnar Styloid Fractures

The most common cause of an ulnar styloid fracture, or any other wrist fracture, is falling onto an outstretched arm. This could happen while playing sports, when falling off a bike, during a car accident, or just falling hard when you trip over something.

Osteoporosis can increase your risk of an ulnar styloid fracture. This is because your bones are more likely to break, even with minor falls.

Ulnar styloid wrist fractures usually happen along with another break called a distal radius fracture, which is at the end of the radius. Distal radius fractures are the most common type of wrist fracture and account for up to 20% of all fractures treated in emergency departments.

At least half of these distal radius fractures also have ulnar styloid fractures. While distal radius fractures usually require a cast or surgery, ulnar styloid fractures may or may not require treatment.


Your healthcare provider will examine your wrist and order an X-ray to show how the bone is broken and whether any of the bones are displaced. Imaging from a computed tomography (CT) scan can also help identify the cause of any pain in the wrist.


While distal radius fractures usually require realignment, a cast, or surgery, ulnar styloid fractures themselves usually don’t require treatment.

To help with any pain, your healthcare provider may recommend that you use Advil (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen). If pain is severe, your healthcare provider may suggest a prescription-strength pain medication.

A study of patients with distal radius fractures found that their outcome was not affected by the presence or absence of an ulnar styloid fracture. The study also concluded that when the ulnar styloid fracture was out of position or didn’t heal, it didn’t affect the patients’ prognosis.

One exception is when the distal radioulnar joint (DRUJ), which is between the ulna and radius, is unstable. In those cases, treating the unlar styloid fracture can improve outcomes. The ulnar styloid fracture may be treated with open reduction and internal fixation, which is surgery to realign and immobilize the broken bones. Those cases are rare, though, and in most wrist fractures, the DRUJ is stable.

In most cases an ulnar styloid fracture doesn’t require special care. Your healthcare provider will instead be focused on treating the distal radius fracture, which may require surgery. Talk to your healthcare provider if your pain hasn’t started to improve within a few days.


An ulnar syloid fracture is a common type of wrist injury involving the end of the bony part of your wrist. It often occurs with a distal radius fracture.

This injury doesn't usually require treatment, though if you also have a distal radius fracture you may need a cast or surgery.

A Word From Verywell

While an ulnar styloid fracture itself doesn’t usually require treatment, you should always check with your healthcare provider to get a correct diagnosis. If you have a wrist fracture, your healthcare provider will likely decide your treatment based on the injury to the radius bone, if applicable, rather than the ulnar styloid fracture.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Distal radius fractures (broken wrist).

  2. Meena S, Sharma P, Sambharia AK, Dawar A. Fractures of distal radius: an  overview. J Family Med Prim Care. 2014;3(4):325-32. doi:10.4103/2249-4863.148101

  3. Chen YX, Zheng X, Shi HF, et al. Will the untreated ulnar styloid fracture influence the outcome of unstable distal radial fracture treated with external fixation when the distal radioulnar joint is stable. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013;14:186. doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-186 

  4. Gogna P, Selhi HS, Mohindra M, Singla R, Thora A, Yamin M. Ulnar styloid fracture in distal radius fractures managed with volar locking plates: to fix or not? J Hand Microsurg. 2014;6(2):53-8. doi:10.1007/s12593-014-0133-7

By Jonathan Cluett, MD
Jonathan Cluett, MD, is board-certified in orthopedic surgery. He served as assistant team physician to Chivas USA (Major League Soccer) and the United States men's and women's national soccer teams.