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Arm Injuries - Topic Overview

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-related tasks.
  • 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 doctor.

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.

Most 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 camera.gif), 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 heals.
  • 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).
  • Pulled muscles (strains).
  • 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.
  • Hairline cracks in bones of the arm (stress fractures).
  • Pressure on nerves in the arm, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

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 injury.
  • When the injury occurred.
  • Your age, health condition, and activities (such as work, sports, or hobbies).

Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 27, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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