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Fracture Upper Extremity

Illustration showing the outline and bones of the arm, including the humerus and ulna, and a fracture in the radius.

You have a break (fracture) of the arm, wrist or hand. This may be a small crack in the bone; or, it may be a major break with the broken parts pushed out of position. Most fractures will heal without surgery. However, if the bones are far out of place or if the break is near the elbow, surgery may be required. Treatment is with a special sling ("shoulder immobilizer") or splint or cast, depending on the location of the fracture. This fracture takes 4-6 weeks to heal.

Home Care:

  • If you were given a shoulder immobilizer, leave it in place. This will support the injured arm at your side. This is the best position for bone healing. The shoulder immobilizer is adjustable. If it becomes loose, adjust it so that your forearm is horizontal (level with the ground). Your hand should be level with the elbow.

  • Apply an ice pack (ice cubes in a plastic bag, wrapped in a towel) over the injured area for 20 minutes every 1-2 hours the first day. You can place the ice pack inside the sling and directly over the splint/cast. Continue with ice packs 3-4 times a day for the next two days, then as needed for the relief of pain and swelling.

  • Keep the cast/splint/sling completely dry at all times. Bathe with your cast/splint/sling out of the water, protected with a large plastic bag, rubber-banded at the top end. If a fiberglass cast/splint/sling gets wet, you can dry it with a hair-dryer.

  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control pain, unless another pain medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.]

Follow Up

with your doctor in one week, or as advised by our staff, to be sure the bone is healing properly.

[NOTE: A radiologist will review any X-rays that were taken. We will notify you of any new findings that may affect your care.]

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint remains wet for more than 24 hours

  • Increased tightness or pain under the cast or splint

  • Fingers become swollen, cold, blue, numb or tingly


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