Broken arm

A broken arm involves one or more of the three bones in your arm — the ulna, radius and humerus. One of the most common causes of a broken arm is falling onto an outstretched hand. If you think you or your child has broken an arm, seek prompt medical attention. It's important to treat a fracture as soon as possible for proper healing.

Treatment depends on the site and severity of the injury. A simple break may be treated with a sling, ice and rest. However, the bone may require realignment (reduction) in the emergency room.

A more complicated break might require surgery to realign the broken bone and to implant wires, plates, nails or screws to maintain proper alignment during healing.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

An audible snap or cracking sound may be your first indication you've broken an arm. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Severe pain, which may increase with movement
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Deformity, such as a bent arm or wrist
  • Inability to turn your arm from palm up to palm down or vice versa

When to see a doctor

If you have enough pain in your arm that you can't use it normally, see a doctor right away. And do the same for your child. Delays in diagnosis and treatment of a broken arm, especially for children who heal faster than adults do, can lead to poor healing.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use