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  • Arm Injury

    Definition

    • Injuries to the arm (shoulder to fingers)
    • Injuries to a bone, muscle, joint or ligament
    • Muscle pain caused by too much exercise (overuse) is covered in Arm Pain

    First Aid for Bleeding:

    • Put a gauze pad or clean cloth on top of the wound.
    • Press down firmly on the place that is bleeding.
    • This is called direct pressure. It is the best way to stop bleeding.
    • Keep using pressure until the bleeding stops.
    • If bleeding does not stop, press on a slightly different spot.

    First Aid for Advice for Suspected Fracture or Dislocation of the Shoulder:

    • Use a sling to support the arm. Make the sling with a triangular piece of cloth.
    • Or, at the very least, the child can support the injured arm with the other hand or a pillow.

    First Aid for Other Suspected Arm Fracture or Dislocation:

    • Put the arm, hand, or wrist on a hard splint so it does not move. You can use a small board, magazine folded in half, or folded up newspaper.
    • Tie a few cloth strips around arm or joint to keep the splint from moving.
    • A second choice is to use a soft splint. Wrap the arm or joint in a soft splint so it does not move. You can use a pillow, a rolled-up blanket, or a towel. Use tape to keep this splint in place.
    • Put your child’s injured arm in a sling. If you do not have a sling, have your child support the injured arm with his other hand.

    Types of Arm Injuries

    • Fractures are broken bones. A broken collarbone is the most common broken bone in children. It’s easy to notice because the collar bone is tender to touch. Also, the child cannot raise the arm upward.
    • Dislocations happen when a bone is pulled out of a joint. A dislocated elbow is the most common type of this injury in kids. It’s caused by an adult quickly pulling or lifting a child by the arm. Mainly seen in 1 to 4 year olds. It’s also easy to spot. The child will hold his arm as if it were in a sling. He will keep the elbow bent and the palm of the hand down.
    • Sprains – stretches and tears of ligaments
    • Strains – stretches and tears of muscles (such as a pulled muscle)
    • Muscle overuse from hard work or sports (such as a sore shoulder)
    • Muscle bruise from a direct blow
    • Bone bruise from a direct blow

    Pain Scale

    • Mild: Your child feels pain and tells you about it. But, the pain does not keep your child from any normal activities. School, play and sleep are not changed.
    • Moderate: The pain keeps your child from doing some normal activities. It may wake him or her up from sleep.
    • Severe: The pain is very bad. It keeps your child from doing all normal activities.

    When to Call Us for Arm Injury

    Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If:

    • Serious injury with many broken bones
    • Major bleeding that can’t be stopped (See FIRST AID)
    • Bone is sticking through the skin
    • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

    Call Us Now (night or day) If:

    • You think your child has a serious injury
    • Looks like a broken bone
    • Looks like a dislocated joint
    • Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
    • Age under 1 year old
    • Can’t move the shoulder, elbow or wrist normally
    • Can’t open and close the hand normally
    • Pain is SEVERE and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
    • You think your child needs to be seen urgently

    Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If:

    • You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
    • Very large bruise or swelling
    • Pain not better after 3 days

    Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If:

    • You have other questions or concerns
    • Injury limits sports or school work
    • No tetanus shot in over 5 years for DIRTY cuts
    • No tetanus shot in over 10 years for CLEAN cuts
    • Pain lasts over 2 weeks

    Parent Care at Home If:

    • Bruised muscle or bone from direct blow
    • Pain in muscle (from minor pulled muscle)
    • Pain around joint (from minor stretched ligament)

    Care Advice for Arm Injury

    What you should know:

    • During sports, muscles and bones get bruised.
    • Muscles get stretched.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.

    Pain Medicine:

    • To help with the pain, give acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen.
    • Ibuprofen works well for this type of pain.
    • Use as needed. See Dose Table.

    Cold Pack:

    • For pain or swelling, use a cold pack. You can also use ice wrapped in a wet cloth.
    • Put it on the sore muscles for 20 minutes.
    • Repeat 4 times on the first day, then as needed.
    • Reason: Helps the pain and helps stop any bleeding.
    • Caution: Avoid frostbite.

    Heat Pack:

    • If pain lasts over 2 days, put heat on the sore muscle.
    • Use a heat pack, heating pad or warm wet washcloth.
    • Do this for 10 minutes, then as needed.
    • Caution: Avoid burns.

    Rest:

    • Rest the injured arm as much as possible for 48 hours.

    What to Expect:

    • Pain and swelling most often peak on day 2 or 3.
    • Swelling should be gone by 7 days.
    • Pain may take 2 weeks to fully go away.

    Call Your Doctor If:

    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain is not better after 3 days
    • Pain lasts more than 2 weeks
    • Your child becomes worse

    Disclaimer: This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

    Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.
    Copyright 1994-2013 Barton D. Schmitt, M.D.

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