Broken Arm : A Comprehensive Guide to Healing and Managing


One or more of the three bones in your arm—the ulna, radius, and humerus—are involved in a fractured arm. The act of falling onto an outstretched hand is one of the most frequent causes of broken arms. In the event that you believe you or your child has broken an arm, get help right away. To ensure good healing, a fracture must be treated as soon as feasible.

The place and extent of the damage determine the course of treatment. A sling, ice, and rest may be used to treat a minor break. But the bone could need to be realigned (reduced) at the emergency room.

If the fracture is more severe, surgery may be necessary to realign the shattered bone and implant wires, plates, nails, or screws to hold the bone in place while it heals.


These are some common reasons for fractured arms:

Falls. The most typical way that an arm is broken is when someone falls onto an outstretched hand or elbow.

A sports injury. All sorts of arm fractures are brought on by direct blows and accidents on the field or court.

Considerable trauma. During a vehicle collision, bike accident, or other direct trauma, any of your arm bones could fracture.

Mistreatment of children. A fractured arm in a child could be the result of abuse.

How to check if you have a Broken Arm?

Consult a doctor straight away if your arm is so painful that you are unable to use it normally. The same holds true for your kid. Poor healing can result from delays in the identification and treatment of a broken arm, particularly in children who heal more quickly than adults.

Risk Factors

A fractured arm can occur more frequently due to certain medical problems or physical activities.

Specific sports

A broken arm is more likely to occur in any sport that includes physical contact or raises the possibility of falling, such as football, soccer, gymnastics, skiing, and skating.

Anomalies in the bones

You run a higher risk of breaking your arm if you have osteoporosis or bone tumours. An example of this kind of fracture is a pathological fracture.


Your first sign that you have broken an arm can be a snap or cracking sound. Some warning signs and symptoms are:

  • Extreme discomfort that could get worse if you move
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • A fault, such as a bent wrist or arm
  • Being unable to switch your arm's palm from up to down or vice versa


Even though accidents cannot be prevented, heeding this advice may help shield against bone fractures.

Eat to build strong bones. Consume a nutritious diet that is rich in calcium-containing foods such as milk, yoghurt, and cheese as well as vitamin D, which aids in calcium absorption. Fatty fish like salmon, fortified foods like milk and orange juice, and sun exposure are all good sources of vitamin D.

Bone strength training. Exercises that strengthen bones and lower the risk of fracture include weight-bearing activities and those that enhance balance and posture. You are less likely to fall and break a bone as you become older the more active and fit you are.

Avoid falling. Wear sensible shoes to avoid falling. Remove any risks from your home such as carpets, for example, that can make you trip. Make sure the area where you live is well-lit. If necessary, install grab bars in the bathroom and railings on the stairs.

Put on safety gear. For high-risk sports like inline skating, snowboarding, rugby, and football, use wrist protection.

Avoid smoking. Smoking lowers bone mass, which increases the chance of breaking an arm. It also prevents fractures from mending.


The type of fracture will determine how your arm is treated. The length of time it takes to heal is influenced by a number of variables, including the injury's severity, coexisting illnesses like diabetes, your age, your diet, and your usage of nicotine and alcohol.

The following categories are used to categorise fractures:

Compound (open) fracture. In order to reduce the danger of infection, the shattered bone has pierced the skin, which is a hazardous issue.

Closed fracture. The skin is still intact.

Displaced fracture. On either side of the break, there are unaligned pieces of bone. The fragments may need to be realigned through surgery.

Fracture with fragments. Surgery can be necessary when the bone is fractured into pieces.

Greenstick fracture. The bone begins to fracture, although just slightly — similar to what happens when you bend a piece of green wood. As children's bones are softer and more flexible than those of adults, the majority of broken bones in children are greenstick fractures.

Torus (buckle) fracture. The bone is compressed on one side, which causes the opposite side to bend. Children are also more prone to this kind of fracture.


Your doctor could suggest taking over-the-counter pain medication to lessen pain and inflammation. You could require a prescription drug with a narcotic for a few days if your pain is severe.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) can reduce pain, but they may also slow bone healing, especially if taken for a prolonged period of time. To find out if you can use them to relieve pain, ask your doctor.

If you have an open fracture—a wound or break in the skin close to the wound site—you will probably be prescribed an antibiotic to stop an infection from spreading to the bone.


In a short time after initial treatment, rehabilitation begins. Most of the time, it is necessary to start moving if you can to reduce stiffness in your arm, hand, and shoulder while you have your cast or sling on.

Your doctor may advise additional rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy to regain muscle strength, joint motion, and flexibility after your cast or sling is taken off.


Some fractures need to be stabilized by surgery. Your doctor might postpone surgery until after the swelling has subsided if the fracture did not break the skin. Swelling will be reduced by elevating and immobilizing your arm.

Your bones may require fixation devices, such as wires, plates, nails, or screws, to hold them in place while they recover. Although they are uncommon, complications like infection and poor bone repair are possible.

Complications of Broken Arm

If treated promptly, the prognosis for the majority of arm fractures is excellent. However, issues can arise like:

Uneven expansion. As a child's arm bones are still developing, a fracture in the growth plate, which is located towards each end of a long bone, might impede that bone's development.

Osteoarthritis. Years later, arthritis may develop in a joint due to fractures that extend there.

Stiffness. When a fracture in the upper arm bone needs to be immobilized, the range of motion in the elbow or shoulder may become painfully constrained.

Infected bones. A broken bone fragment that pokes through the skin runs the risk of coming into contact with bacteria that can infect you. This type of fracture must be treated right away.

Blood vessel or nerve injury. The jagged ends of the upper arm bone (humerus) can harm adjacent nerves and blood vessels if it breaks into two or more pieces. If you experience numbness or circulation issues, you should seek emergency medical assistance.

Compartment Syndrome. The blood supply to a portion of the injured arm may be cut off by excessive swelling, resulting in pain and numbness. A medical emergency requiring surgery, compartment syndrome typically develops 24 to 48 hours after the injury.

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Page last reviewed: Mar 10, 2023

Next review due: Mar 10, 2025

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