Broken Arm? Here’s What You Need to Know

A broken arm is a fairly common injury, especially for kids on sports teams or playing outdoors in the summer months. However, the recovery process requires continued effort in order to insure optimal healing. Here are some commonly asked questions about the process and what to expect over time.

How should you deal with a potentially broken arm?

In some cases, it can be difficult to discern if an arm is sprained or broken. The main symptoms of a broken arm are severe pain, bruising, swelling, numbness, broken skin and/or difficulty with movement. Even if you are unsure of the type of injury, it is a good idea to treat the arm as broken. First, try to stabilize the arm by fashioning a sling out of a towel or sturdy cloth. You can also ice it for 20-30 minutes to relieve pain. Go to an Emergency Room as soon as possible—in many cases, the arm can be treated and cast in the E.R. For more severe cases, such as shattered bone or ruptured skin, outpatient visits and surgery are required.

How long does it take to recover?

Recovery depends on the type of breakage sustained. If surgery is necessary, recovery will naturally take longer than a smaller fracture treated immediately in the E.R. The location of the break also matters. The long bones of the arm (ulna, radius, humerus) generally recover faster than breaks in wrists and elbows, which often require surgery.

Once the arm is put in a cast, sling, brace, etc., complete immobilization is essential to recovery. This immobilization process can be a couple weeks or months, based on the factors addressed in the previous paragraph. Once the injury is healed enough, physical therapy is needed before performing strenuous activities. It may be a few months longer until the arm is healed fully.

Kids generally recover faster than adults, especially elderly adults suffering from arthritis. Leading a healthy, active lifestyle and consuming proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D can help strengthen bones and reduce risk of breakage.

What activities can you do during the recovery process?

During the period of immobilization, activity is very limited. One must be very cautious and should not partake in risky activities. Going on walks, to the movies, farmer’s market, or a museum can be fun activities with limited arm movement required. Casts should not get wet so activities such as swimming are not permitted, which can be very difficult in the summer! Once the arm has healed more, you can introduce activities that don’t put pressure on the arm. These include jogging, playing an instrument, or driving.

If you are worried that you or someone you love has suffered from a broken arm, seek immediate medical attention. To contact an experienced double board certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine doctor serving patients across Kentucky and Southern Indiana, call Orthopaedic Specialists at 502-212-2663 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Stacie Grossfeld.