Conditions & Treatments

Broken Arm

Broken arms usually result from a fall or other traumatic injury and can involve any of a number of bones in the arm. The upper arm bone (the humerus) is a common site of fracture. Children, however, most frequently break the bones of the lower arm. A break is often accompanied by a snapping sound. Other symptoms include: inability to perform normal functions and pain at the site of fracture, made worse by movement. A fracture may cause a visible deformity of the arm.

If you think you or someone else has a broken arm: Control any bleeding. If there is serious bleeding or the person otherwise appears badly injured, call 911. Try not to move the broken arm, immobilizing it with a splint or sling if necessary. If possible, elevate the arm above the level of the person’s heart to slow bleeding. See a doctor as soon as possible.

The physician will want to know what happened. In addition to checking for fractured bones, he or she will want to detect any damage to nerves or other important structures. X-rays may be used to help visualize the arm bones. Depending on the fracture, the doctor may need to re-set the bones in place (a procedure called reduction), sometimes using surgery. The inured arm will also need to be immobilized so that it can heal properly. After a period of immobilization, a gradual program of strengthening and return to activity usually completes the treatment process.