First Time User? Enroll now.
As the COVID-19 situation has evolved, our visitor policy is evolving as well. Get full details.
For the most current information, please visit our Coronavirus resource pages.
Home > Health Library > Arm Injuries
Minor arm injuries are common. Symptoms often are caused by everyday wear and tear, overuse, or an injury. Arm injuries are often caused by:
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. It's also higher 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. It needs to be checked by a doctor.
Older adults have a greater chance for injuries and broken bones. That's because they lose muscle mass and bone strength (osteoporosis) as they age. Older adults also have more problems with vision and balance. This makes them more likely to have an accidental injury.
Most minor injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that's needed.
Acute injuries come on suddenly. They may be caused by a direct blow, a penetrating injury, or a fall. Or they may occur when you twist, jerk, jam, or bend a limb abnormally. Pain may be sudden and severe. Bruising and swelling may start soon after the injury. Acute injuries usually need prompt medical care. They include:
Overuse injuries occur when stress is placed on a joint or other tissue. This often happens when you overdo or repeat an activity. Overuse injuries include:
Treatment for an arm injury may include first aid (such as using a brace, splint, or cast), "setting" a broken bone or returning a dislocated joint to its normal position, physical therapy, and medicines. In some cases, surgery is needed. Treatment depends on:
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
Symptoms of infection may include:
Pain in adults and older children
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.
Major trauma is any event that can cause very serious injury, such as:
Pain in children under 3 years
It can be hard to tell how much pain a baby or toddler is in.
Pain in children 3 years and older
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may quickly occur after a sudden illness or injury.
Adults and older children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Shock is a life-threatening condition that may occur quickly after a sudden illness or injury.
Babies and young children often have several symptoms of shock. These include:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in adults are:
With severe bleeding, any of these may be true:
With moderate bleeding, any of these may be true:
With mild bleeding, any of these may be true:
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Put direct, steady pressure on the wound until help arrives. Keep the area raised if you can.
Most minor arm injuries will heal on their own, and home treatment is usually all that's needed. But if you think that you might have a more severe injury, use first aid until you can be seen by a doctor.
Try the following tips to help relieve arm pain, swelling, and stiffness.
Remove rings, bracelets, watches, and any other jewelry from your hand and arm. It will be hard to remove the jewelry after swelling starts.
It's important to 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.
Ice will reduce pain and swelling. Apply ice or cold packs right away to prevent or reduce swelling. Apply the ice or cold pack for 10 to 20 minutes, 3 or more times a day.
Compression, or wrapping the area with an elastic bandage (such as an Ace wrap), will help reduce swelling.
Try to keep the area at or above the level of your heart to help reduce swelling. Prop up the area on pillows while you apply ice and anytime you sit or lie down.
For the first 48 hours after the injury, wear a sling if it makes you more comfortable and supports the injured or sore area.
For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling. These things include hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, and drinks that contain alcohol.
After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat. You can start gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and keep flexibility. Some experts advise switching between heat and cold treatments.
Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Don't massage the injured area if it causes pain.
Smoking slows healing because it decreases blood supply and delays tissue repair.
If you need to use a wrap or sling for more than 48 hours, you may have a more serious injury that needs to be checked by a doctor.
Most injuries are not caused by abuse. But bruises are often the first sign of possible abuse. Suspect physical abuse of a child or vulnerable adult when:
You may be able to prevent further injuries by reporting abuse. Seek help if:
Call a doctor if any of the following occur during self-care at home:
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared for your appointment.
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.