Minor arm injuries are common. Symptoms often develop from everyday
wear and tear, overuse, or an injury. Arm injuries are often caused by:
Sports or hobbies.
Work or projects around the home.
Your child may injure his or her arm during sports or play or
from accidental falls. The chance of having an injury is higher in contact sports (such as wrestling, football, or soccer) and in high-speed sports (such as biking,
in-line skating, skiing, snowboarding, and skateboarding). Forearms, wrists,
hands, and fingers are injured most often. An injury to the end of a long
bone near a joint may harm the growth plate and needs to be checked by a
Older adults have a greater chance for injuries and broken bones because
they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteoporosis)
as they age. Older adults also have more problems with vision and balance,
which increases their chances of having an accidental injury.
minor injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that
is needed to relieve symptoms and promote healing.
Acute injuries come on suddenly and
may be caused by a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall or from
twisting, jerking, jamming, or bending a limb abnormally. Pain may be sudden
and severe. Bruising and swelling may develop soon after the injury. Acute
injuries usually require prompt medical evaluation and may include:
Bruises (contusions), which occur when small
blood vessels under the skin tear or rupture, often from a twist, bump, or
fall. Blood leaks into tissues under the skin and causes a black-and-blue color
that often turns purple, red, yellow, and green as the bruise
Injuries to the tough, ropey fibers (ligaments) that
connect bone to bone and help stabilize joints (sprains).
Injuries to the tough, ropey
fibers that connect muscle to bone (tendons).
Muscle ruptures, such as a
biceps or triceps rupture.
Broken bones (fractures). A
break may occur when a bone is twisted, struck directly, or used to brace
against a fall.
Pulling or pushing bones out of their normal
relationship to the other bones that make up a joint (dislocations).
Overuse injuries occur when stress
is placed on a joint or other tissue, often by "overdoing" an activity or
repeating the same activity. Overuse injuries include:
Pain and swelling of the sac of fluid that
cushions and lubricates the joint area between one bone and another bone, a
tendon, or the skin (bursitis).
Pain and swelling of the
tough, ropey fibers that connect muscles to bones (tendinitis).
Pain and swelling from tiny
tears (microtears) in the connective tissue in or around the tendon
(tendinosis). Other symptoms of this type of tendon injury include loss of
strength or movement in the arm.
Treatment for an arm injury may include
first aid measures (such as using a brace, splint, or cast), "setting" a broken
bone or returning a dislocated joint to its normal position, physical therapy,
medicines, and in some cases surgery. Treatment depends on:
The location, type, and severity of the
When the injury occurred.
Your age, health
condition, and activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).
all bracelets and rings. It may be hard to remove the jewelry if your arm
or hand swells. Swelling without removal of jewelry can cause other serious
problems, such as nerve compression or restricted blood flow.
Do not try to straighten the injured
arm. If a bone is sticking out of the skin, do not try to push it back into the
skin. Cover the area with a clean bandage, and use a
splint to support the arm in its current
Splint an injured arm to protect it from further injury.
Loosen the wrap around the splint if you have numbness, tingling, increased
pain, swelling, cool skin, or other symptoms. The wrap may be too
If your arm is in a cast or
splint, your doctor will give you instructions on how to
care for your cast or splint. Try to move the
uninjured parts of your arm as normally as possible to help maintain muscle
strength and tone.
Home treatment for a minor injury
If you have a minor
injury and do not need to be checked by a doctor, you may be able to use home
treatment to help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Rest and protect an
injured or sore area. Stop, change, or take a break from any activity that may
be causing your pain or soreness.
reduce pain and swelling. Apply
ice or cold packs immediately to prevent or minimize swelling. Apply the ice
or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
For the first 48 hours after an injury,
avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot
packs, or alcoholic beverages.
After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is
heat and begin
gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help
restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between
heat and cold treatments.
Compression, or wrapping
the injured or sore area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will
help decrease swelling. Don't wrap it too tightly, since this can cause more
swelling below the affected area. Loosen the bandage if it gets too tight.
Signs that the bandage is too tight include numbness, tingling, increased pain,
coolness, or swelling in the area below the bandage. Talk to your doctor if you think you need to use a wrap for longer than 48 to 72
hours—a more serious problem may be present.
Elevate the injured or sore area on pillows while applying ice
and anytime you are sitting or lying down. Try to keep the area at or above the
level of your heart to help minimize swelling.
Remove rings, bracelets, watches, or any other jewelry from your hand and arm.
It will be more difficult to remove the jewelry later if swelling
sling for the first 48 hours after the injury if it
makes you more comfortable and supports the injured area. If you feel you need
to use a sling for more than 48 hours, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and
encourage blood flow. Do not massage the injured area if it causes
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking slows
healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair. For more
information, see the topic
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription
medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Aspirin (also a nonsteroidal
anti-inflammatory drug), such as Bayer or Bufferin
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and
forth between doses of acetaminophen and ibuprofen. When you switch between two
medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these
safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Carefully read and follow all directions
on the medicine bottle and box.
Use a step stool. Do not stand on
chairs or other unsteady objects.
Wear protective gear during
sports or hobbies, such as roller-skating or soccer. Supportive splints, such
as wrist guards, may reduce your risk of injury.
Warm up well and
stretch before any activity. Stretch after exercise to keep hot muscles from
shortening and cramping.
Use the correct techniques (movements) or
positions during activities so that you do not strain your
Try not to overuse your arm doing repeated movements that
can cause an injury. In your daily routines or when doing hobbies, think about how
often you make repeated arm movements. Try to find other ways of using your
Take lessons to learn how to do sports correctly. Have a
trainer or person who is familiar with the sport check your gear to make sure
it is right for your level of ability, body size, and body
If you think that something you do at work is causing
pain or soreness from overuse, call your human resources department for
information on other ways of doing your job or to discuss equipment
modifications or other job assignments.
Eat healthy foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt,
and dark green, leafy vegetables like broccoli. For more information, see the
Exercise and stay active.
Talk to your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you. Begin
slowly, especially if you have been inactive. For more information, see the
Don't drink more than 2 alcoholic
drinks a day if you are a man, or 1 alcoholic drink a day if you are a woman.
Drinking alcohol increases your chances of having weak bones (osteoporosis). It also increases your chances of
Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. Smoking
increases your chances of having osteoporosis. It also causes problems with the
blood supply in your arms and slows healing. For more information, see the
Arm injuries such as bruises, burns,
fractures, cuts, or punctures may be caused by
abuse. Suspect possible abuse when an injury cannot be
explained or does not match the explanation, repeated injuries occur, or the
explanations for the cause of the injury change. You may be able to prevent
further abuse by reporting it and seeking help.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.