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What to Do With a Broken Arm: Diagnosis & Treatment

There are three bones in your arm: the ulna, radius and humerus. The most commonly broken arm bone is the humerus, which is the large bone between the shoulder and the elbow. Most distal humerus fractures (breaks near the elbow) are caused by a high-energy event, like a fall from standing, falling down the stairs, sports-related blows or an automobile collision. Falling onto an outstretched hand or elbow is the most common cause of a broken arm, accounting for nearly half the 6 million broken bones in the United States each year.

If you or a loved needs broken arm treatment in Baton Rouge, please visit Urgent Care of Baton Rouge. We welcome walk-ins Mon – Fri, 9 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sat – Sun, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Broken arm treatment

Treatment of a broken arm largely depends on the type, location and severity of the break. To ensure you’re receiving appropriate care; your doctor will need to ask a few questions to better understand your medical history. Factors like age, diabetes, nutrition, tobacco or alcohol use can all affect healing time.

Bone fractures are classified into one or more of the following categories:

  • Open (compound) fracture
    A fracture in which there is an open wound at or near the site of the broken bone.
  • Closed fracture
    A fracture without an open wound.
  • Displaced fracture
    A fracture in which the bone fragments are no longer aligned.
  • Comminuted fracture
    A break or splintering of the bone into more than two fragments.
  • Greenstick fracture
    A break in which one side of the bone is broken and the other side is only bent. (Most common in children under 10 years.)
  • Buckle (torus) fracture
    An incomplete fracture in which one side of the bone bends, raising a little buckle, without breaking the other side of the bone. (Most common in children under 10 years.)

What to do with a broken arm

Once your doctor has a complete medical history and has identified the type of break, they can provide appropriate treatment. Typical broken arm treatment includes:

  • Setting the bone
    Depending on the type of break, your doctor may need to realign or move the pieces back into position during a surgical procedure.
  • Immobilization
    Once the bone is set and in the correct position, restricting its movement with a splint, sling, brace or cast is essential for proper healing. Before applying a cast, a splint may be required for a few days to allow for any swelling to go down.
  • Medications
    Depending on the severity of the break, your doctor may prescribe over-the-counter or prescription pain medications to help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Rehabilitation exercises or physical therapy
    Rehabilitation typically begins soon after initial treatment to minimize stiffness in the shoulder, arm and hand while you’re wearing the cast or sling.

Signs and symptoms of a broken arm

If you fall on or sustain a sports-related injury and hear a snap or cracking sound, you may have broken one or more bones in your arm. Here are some additional signs and symptoms of a broken arm:

  • Severe pain that increases with movement
  • Inability to move your arm at the wrist, elbow or shoulder
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity (e.g., bent arm or wrist)
  • Inability to rotate your hand from palm up to palm down (or vice versa)
  • Possible open wound resulting from the fall or injury

Using an x-ray for fast results and diagnostic accuracy is essential when you’re in pain and concerned about what to do with a broken arm. Our licensed radiologists follow the highest safety standards with certified equipment to ensure an excellent image on the first try, minimizing your exposure to radiation. We welcome walk-in appointments and are open daily.