Is this your child's symptom?
- Injuries to the arm (shoulder to hand)
- Injuries to a bone, muscle, joint or ligament
- Excluded: muscle pain caused by too much exercise or work (overuse). Covered in Arm Pain.
- Excluded: finger injury only. See that care guide.
Types of Arm Injuries
- Fractures. 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. This happens 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 lifting a child by the wrist or hand. It can also be caused by suddenly pulling a child toward you. 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. Sprains are stretches and tears of ligaments.
- Strains. Strains are stretches and tears of muscles (such as a pulled muscle).
- Muscle Overuse. Muscle pain can occur without an injury. There is no fall or direct blow. Muscle overuse is from hard work or sports (such as a sore shoulder).
- Muscle bruise from a direct blow
- Bone bruise from a direct blow
- Skin Injury. Examples are a cut, scratch, scrape or bruise. All are common with arm injuries.
- 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
Call Doctor or Seek Care Now
Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours
Contact Doctor During Office Hours
Self Care at Home
Care Advice for Minor Arm Injuries
- What You Should Know About Minor Arm Injuries:
- 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 an acetaminophen product (such as Tylenol).
- Another choice is an ibuprofen product (such as Advil). Ibuprofen works well for this type of pain.
- Use as needed.
- Small Cut or Scrape Treatment:
- Use direct pressure to stop any bleeding. Do this for 10 minutes or until bleeding stops.
- Wash the wound with soap and water for 5 minutes. Try to rinse the cut under running water.
- Gently scrub out any dirt with a washcloth.
- Use an antibiotic ointment (such as Polysporin). No prescription is needed. Then, cover it with a bandage. Change daily.
- Cold Pack for Pain:
- 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.
- Use Heat After 48 Hours:
- 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.
- Reason: Increase blood flow and improve healing.
- Caution: Avoid burns.
- Rest the Arm:
- 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
- You think your child needs to be seen
- Your child becomes worse
And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.
Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
Copyright 2000-2023. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.