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Arm Fracture in Adults

AMBULATORY CARE:

An arm fracture

is a crack or break in one or more of the bones in your arm.

Adult Arm Bones

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Arm and shoulder pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Abnormal arm position or shape
  • Severe pain when you move your arm
  • Weakness or numbness in your arm, hand, or fingers

Seek care immediately if:

  • The pain in your injured arm does not get better or gets worse, even after you rest and take medicine.
  • Your injured arm, hand, or fingers feel numb.
  • Your arm is swollen, red, and feels warm.
  • Your skin over the fracture is swollen, cold, or pale.
  • You cannot move your arm, hand, or fingers.

Call your doctor if:

  • You have a fever.
  • Your brace or splint becomes wet, damaged, or comes off.
  • You have questions or concerns about your injury, treatment, or care.

Treatment

will depend on what kind of fracture you have, and how bad it is. You may need any of the following:

  • A support device , such as a brace, cast, or splint may be needed to hold your broken bones in place. It will decrease your arm movement and allow the bones to heal.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly. Do not use more than 4 grams (4,000 milligrams) total of acetaminophen in one day.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to take this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not take other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to your healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Closed reduction may be done to put your bones back into the correct position without surgery.
  • Open reduction surgery may be needed to put your bones back into the correct position. An incision is made and the bones are put back in the correct position. This may include the use of wires, pins, plates, or screws.

Self-care:

  • Elevate your arm above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

  • Apply ice on your arm for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Rest your arm as much as possible. Ask your healthcare provider when you can put pressure or weight on your arm. Also ask when you can return to sports or exercise.

Care for your cast or splint:

Ask your healthcare provider when it is okay to bathe. Do not get your cast or splint wet. Before you take a bath or shower, cover your cast or splint with a plastic bag. Tape the bag to your skin to help keep water out. Hold your arm away from the water in case the bag has a hole or tear.

  • Check the skin around your cast or splint each day for any redness or open skin.
  • Do not use a sharp or pointed object to scratch your skin under the cast or splint.

Physical therapy:

A physical therapist teaches you exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your doctor within 1 week:

You may need to see a bone specialist within 3 to 4 days if you need surgery or more treatment. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Arm Fracture in Adults (Ambulatory Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.