What is a Broken Arm?
A broken or fractured arm means that one or more of the bones of the arm have been cracked. Usually, a broken arm involves one or more of the three bones in your arm — the ulna, radius and humerus.
How common is Broken Arm?
Broken arm is a common injury occurring in both children and adults. In adults, fractures of the arm account for nearly half of all broken bones. In children, fractures of the forearm are second only to broken collarbones. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of a Broken Arm?
The common symptoms of a Broken Arm are:
- A snap or cracking sound
- Severe pain, which might increase with movement
- Deformity, such as a bent arm or wrist
- Inability to turn your arm from palm up to palm down or vice versa
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
You should contact your doctor if:
- You have enough pain in your arm that you can’t use it normally
What causes a Broken Arm?
Almost all injuries to the arm that result in a broken bone are caused in 2 ways: falls and direct trauma.
- The typical fall that produces a fracture occurs when you fall on your outstretched hand. The location of the fracture can be from the wrist up to the shoulder depending on the direction of the fall, the age of the person, and other factors that modify the stresses applied to the bone.
- Direct trauma can be from a direct blow from an object such as a bat, the trauma during a car accident, or any accident that causes the direct application of force to a part of the arm.
What increases my risk for a Broken Arm?
There are many risk factors for a Broken Arm, such as:
- Certain sports. Any sport that involves physical contact or increases your risk of falling — including football, soccer, gymnastics, skiing and skateboarding — also increases the risk of a broken arm.
- Bone abnormalities. Conditions that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis and bone tumors, increase your risk of a broken arm. This type of break is known as a pathological fracture.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is a Broken Arm diagnosed?
Your doctor will examine your arm for tenderness, swelling, deformity or an open wound. After discussing your symptoms and how you injured yourself, your doctor likely will order X-rays to determine the location and extent of the break. Occasionally, another scan, such as an MRI, might be used to get more-detailed images.
How is a Broken Arm treated?
The most important aspect of first aid is to stabilize the arm. Do this by using a towel as a sling. Place it under the arm and then around the neck. An alternate approach to keep the arm from moving is to position a rolled and taped newspaper along the swollen area and to tape it in place.
Apply ice to the injured area. This can help to decrease pain and swelling. Place ice in a bag and leave it on the arm for 20-30 minutes at a time. It may be helpful to place a towel around the ice bag or in between the bag and the skin to protect the skin from getting too cold. Never put ice directly on the skin.
The most important aspect of treating fractures is to determine which ones can be treated with outpatient care and which require admission to the hospital.
In most instances, the broken arm will be able to be treated in the emergency department.
Most fractures will need to have a splint or partial cast applied to stabilize the broken bones. Some breaks especially in the upper arm and shoulder may only need to be immobilized in a sling.
In addition to splinting the broken arm, the physician will prescribe medicines for pain control and ice to decrease swelling.
Typically, wounds that warrant admission to the hospital are these:
- Bones that have gone through the skin or have lacerations over the broken area
- Fractures that are associated with nerve damage
- Fractures that are associated with blood vessel damage
- Complicated fractures that have multiple breaks, involve the joints, or are unable to be stabilized in the emergency department or doctor’s office
Most broken arms will not require admission to the hospital. For all other fractures, the treating doctor will suggest you follow up with an orthopedic doctor (bone specialist). At that time, the orthopedist will determine what further care (continued splinting, casting, or surgery) is necessary based on the type of fracture.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage a Broken Arm?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with a Broken Arm:
- Wear any support device (splint, sling, or brace, for example) until the doctor sees you for follow-up.
- Keep your splint or cast clean and dry.
- Apply ice to the injured area for 20-30 minutes 4-5 times a day.
- Keep your arm elevated above the heart as much as possible to decrease swelling. Use pillows to prop your arm while in bed or sitting in a chair.
- Take pain medicine as prescribed. Do not drink or drive if you are taking narcotic pain medication.
- Call your doctor for increased pain, loss of sensation, or if your fingers or hand turn cold or blue.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Broken Arm. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/broken-arm#2-7. Accessed August 2, 2018.
Broken arm. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/broken-arm/symptoms-causes/syc-20353260. Accessed August 2, 2018.
Review Date: August 23, 2018 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019