The arm is made up of bones that can be broken in many different ways. The radius and ulna are the long bones below the elbow. There is just one bone above the elbow — the humerus. A broken arm can occur in a car accident, truck accident, or slip and fall accident. Surgery is frequently required to stabilize the arm, especially if it is an open fracture. With an open fracture, a specialist will have to do a neurological exam and a vascular exam. Often times, the extent of damage cannot be determined until surgery.
If a broken arm is suspected, take these steps to help ease the pain until medical help arrives:
- Try to keep the arm motionless.
- Keep the arm elevated above heart level to minimize swelling.
- If the bone is protruding, cover it to keep it clean. NEVER try to put a fractured bone back into position.
Treatment for a Broken Arm
Basically, there are two options for treating a broken arm — internally (surgery) or externally (cast or splint). There are many types of casts or splints depending on the amount of support needed during healing.
In order for the arm to heal properly, the following are recommended:
- During the first few days, continue to elevate the injured area to minimize swelling and pain. An ice pack can also be applied for short periods of time throughout the day. Keep a thin barrier (like a towel) between the ice pack and the cast.
- Keep all areas of the cast or splint dry at all times. Cover with a plastic bag and tape securely while bathing. Should it become damp, dry gently with a hair dryer.
- Never put powder or anti-itch ointment inside the cast.
- Never try to scratch inside the cast.
- Report any tingling, numbness, unusual swelling, or skin irritations. These symptoms may mean the cast is too tight.
Recovery may take anywhere from a few weeks to several months depending on the severity of the break. Keep these tips in mind to facilitate a full recovery:
- Never remove the cast or splint unless instructed by your doctor.
- Do not expect to return to normal activity immediately after the cast is removed. Take it slow and give the joints and muscles time to strengthen.
- Do physical therapy as prescribed.
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