Philadelphia Hand to Shoulder Center treats all arm injuries, conditions and ailments, including those resulting from sports injuries, workplace accidents, and falls.

Delays in Diagnosis will Complicate Care and Repair

Your bones are active living structural components, and a broken arm will immediately begin the healing process. If the bone is not set properly or if other damage is left undiagnosed, you risk compromising the future integrity of the bone and its function. While the prognosis for a broken arm is usually excellent with prompt attention, there are a number of complications where our expertise can be critical. These include joint involvement, compound fracture and nerve/blood vessel damage.

A Broken Arm May Not Be Obvious

For many people, a broken arm is very obvious. A crack may have been heard or a bone may appear to be “out of place”. But many times, a broken arm is not obvious. If the pain in your arm reduces normal mobility, you should see a doctor immediately. Bones naturally try to heal, but if you have any misalignment, complex fracture patterns or damage to surrounding tendons, nerves or muscles, the arm will not heal correctly. Review the symptoms below if you suspect you may have a broken arm.

Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Arm

  • Severe pain that increases when you move
  • Swelling and/or throbbing pain
  • Tenderness
  • Bruising
  • Visual deformity, bend in arm
  • Stiffness
  • Can't move your arm, wrist or elbow
  • Can't rotate the arm

If the fracture is not protruding from the skin and no obvious deformity is evident, the normal course of action is to get X-rays to determine the extent and complexity of the fracture. The X-rays will identify the location of the break and clarify whether joint involvement is contributing to the injury. If more accurate images are required to review surrounding muscles, tendons and tissues a CT scan will be ordered. 

Setting the Bone and Immobilization

If you have a displaced fracture, your doctor may need to manipulate the pieces back into their proper positions — a process called reduction. Depending on the amount of pain and swelling you have, you may need a muscle relaxant, a sedative or even a general anesthetic before this procedure.

Restricting the movement of any broken bone is critical to healing. To do this, you may need to wear a splint, sling, brace or cast. The length of time needed depends on the severity of the injury, but can range from three to 10 weeks.