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First Aid & Emergencies

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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).
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