You can break one or more of the three bones in your arm, and it always requires medical attention.
One major cause of a broken arm is a fall on an outstretched arm. It can happen to anyone, but it happens more often with children as they play or during a moment of distraction.
Older people are prone to falls and accidents, which can lead to broken bones. Certain medicines that cause drowsiness (e.g. sleep pills) can increase your risk for falls and bone fractures.
- Pain that increases with movement of the arm.
- Swelling of the arm.
- An arm that stands at an angle.
- Bleeding or even bones sticking out through the flesh.
- Numbness in the wrist and fingers.
- Falling on an outstretched arm is the major cause of a broken arm.
- Vigorous sporting activities like football and volleyball can cause a broken arm.
- Car and biking accidents can result in a broken arm.
- Fighting and domestic abuse can cause broken arms.
- Most sporting activities that make use of the arm like gymnastics, volleyball, and basketball as well as other vigorous sporting activities like football, place you at risk of a broken arm.
- Medical conditions characterized by soft bones (e.g. osteoporosis) put you at risk of a broken arm.
- Children are more at risk because of their soft, flexible bone structure. They tend to break their arm during play or a moment of distraction (e.g. a fall down stairs).
- Older people are more at risk of braking bones because their bones can be brittle and they may fall more easily due to balance problems. Taking prescription medicines may also increase their risk for falls (e.g. sleeping pills).
Try not to move the broken arm and use a bandage or splint from your first aid box to immobilize the arm. Get the person with the broken arm to a healthcare provider as soon as possible.
A broken arm usually occurs accidentally. You can prevent breaking an arm by:
- Using protective gear when playing sports and riding bicycles.
- Being careful to avoid falls, especially on stairs and ladders.
- Eating calcium-rich foods like vegetables, milk and fish for strong bones.
- Exercising regularly for bone strength.
Self- care tips
Before seeking medical attention;
- Place the arm in the most convenient position and keep it in place with a bandage or splint.
- Apply ice packs wrapped in a towel or wrapper and place them on the injured part (unless this causes more pain).
Your healthcare provider will treat the arm depending on the severity of the damage.
- In mild cases, a cast will be placed around the arm for a few days to weeks. Your healthcare provider will prescribe pain relief medications.
- In moderate cases, you will be required to stay in the hospital for a day or two. Your healthcare provider may recommend stronger pain relief medicines and place a cast around the arm.
- In severe cases you may require surgery to put the broken bones back in place. You will be admitted to hospital and for specialized care.
After seeking medical attention:
- Clean the cast regularly and prevent it from being wet.
- Assist the arm by putting it on a pillow or an armrest.
- Take prescribed drugs as recommended.
- After the cast is removed, exercise the arm gently by moving it back and forth several times a day until it regains strength.
- You may need physical therapy to restore strength to the bone and muscles in your arm.
When you break your arm, do not pull the hand to straighten it. Instead, seek medical attention immediately. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions on how to take care of the broken arm during and after treatment to avoid permanent injury or complications. Most people who have broken arms heal without incident.