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).
bleeding does not stop or slow down with pressure.
Blood is quickly soaking through bandage after bandage.
With moderate bleeding, any of these may
The bleeding slows or stops with pressure but
starts again if you remove the pressure.
The blood may soak through
a few bandages, but it is not fast or out of control.
With mild bleeding, any of these may be
The bleeding stops on its own or with
The bleeding stops or slows to an ooze or trickle after
15 minutes of pressure. It may ooze or trickle for up to 45 minutes.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and
illness. Some examples in adults are:
Diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease,
Long-term alcohol and drug
Steroid medicines, which may be used to treat a variety
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for
Other medicines used to treat autoimmune
Medicines taken after organ transplant.
having a spleen.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock in a child may include:
Being very sleepy or hard
to wake up.
Not responding when being touched or talked to.
Breathing much faster than usual.
The child may not know where he or she is.
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur
after a sudden illness or injury.
Symptoms of shock (most of which will be present) include:
Feeling very dizzy or
lightheaded, like you may pass out.
Feeling very weak or having
Not feeling alert or able to think clearly. You
may be confused, restless, fearful, or unable to respond to questions.
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Severe pain (8 to 10): The
pain is so bad that the baby cannot sleep, cannot get comfortable, and cries
constantly no matter what you do. The baby may kick, make fists, or
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The baby is
very fussy, clings to you a lot, and may have trouble sleeping but responds
when you try to comfort him or her.
Mild pain (1 to 4): The baby is a little fussy and clings to you a little but responds
when you try to comfort him or her.
Major trauma is any event that can
cause very serious injury, such as:
A fall from more than
10 ft (3.1 m) [more than
5 ft (1.5 m) for children under
2 years and adults over 65].
A car crash in which any vehicle
involved was going more than
20 miles (32 km) per
Any event that causes severe bleeding that you cannot
Any event forceful enough to badly break a bone.
When an area turns blue, very pale, or cold, it can mean that there has been a sudden change in the blood
supply to the area. This can be serious.
There are other reasons
for color and temperature changes. Bruises often look blue. A limb may turn
blue or pale if you leave it in one position for too long, but its normal color
returns after you move it. What you are looking for is a change in how the area
looks (it turns blue or pale) and feels (it becomes cold to the touch), and
this change does not go away.
Pain in adults and older children
Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain
is so bad that you can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep, and
can't do anything else except focus on the pain.
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt your
normal activities and your sleep, but you can tolerate it for hours or days.
Moderate can also mean pain that comes and goes even if it's severe when it's
Mild pain (1 to 4): You notice the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt your sleep or activities.
Symptoms of infection may
Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in or
around the area.
Red streaks leading from the area.
Pus draining from the area.
Try Home Treatment
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
Try home treatment to relieve the
Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any
concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect).
You may need care sooner.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
Your age. Babies and older
adults tend to get sicker quicker.
Your overall health. If you have a condition such as diabetes, HIV, cancer, or heart
disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
Medicines you take. Certain
medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
Recent health events, such as surgery
or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
use, sexual history, and travel.
Arm Problems, Noninjury
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and
arrange for care.
If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have
one, seek care in the next hour.
You do not need to call an
You cannot travel safely either by driving
yourself or by having someone else drive you.
You are in an area
where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Severe pain (8 to 10): The pain
is so bad that the child can't stand it for more than a few hours, can't sleep,
and can't do anything else except focus on the pain. No one can tolerate severe
pain for more than a few hours.
Moderate pain (5 to 7): The pain is bad enough to disrupt the child's normal activities and
sleep, but the child can tolerate it for hours or days.
Mild pain (1 to 4): The child notices and may complain of the pain,
but it is not bad enough to disrupt his or her sleep or activities.
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.