Diagnosing the Different Types of Arm Fracture

Since bones are often broken as a result of a fall, it is no surprise that an arm fracture is one of the most common ways of breaking a bone. It is the most natural thing to put out your arms for support when falling. Unfortunately, putting this kind of pressure on the bones of the arms, wrists or fingers may be too much for them to handle. And that could result in a fractured bone.

First of all, take note that the term fracture means exactly the same thing as broken. So an arm fracture is just another way of saying a broken arm. There are 3 bones in the arm: the humerus, the radius and the ulna. In most arm fractures, the bone will break or crack along the shaft of the bone because that is where the bone is generally weakest.

Upper Arm Fracture – The Humerus

The humerus is the bone located in the upper part of the arm, running between the elbow and the shoulder. Breaks in the humerus generally occur after a heavy blow to this part of the arm, most commonly this happens in a car wreck or a serious fall. The humerus may break from a slight fall or light impact, but this usually only happens in cases where illnesses like osteoporosis and cancer have caused a weakening in the bone.

Lower Arm Fracture – The Radius and Ulna

The radius and ulna are the 2 bones located in the lower part of the arm, stretching from the elbow to the hand. The ulna is on the outside of the arm, even with the pinky finger, and the radius is on the inside of the arm, even with the thumb. Fractures of the radius and ulna are usually caused by a heavy blow, as with the humerus, or from the pressure caused trying to catch yourself during a fall. The radius and ulna can either be broken separately or both of them at the same time.

Symptoms of a Broken Arm

No matter which bone gets broken, it will almost always cause fairly intense pain and swelling. A fractured arm may also appear black and blue or misshapen, depending on the type and severity of the fracture. Numbness in the area of the break may also be a symptom of a broken arm. Fractures that occur in the bones of the lower part of the arm may exhibit only mild symptoms, including minor pain or only becoming slightly swollen.

Broken bones are either non-displaced, displaced or compound. A non-displaced break means that the bone is cracked but is not misshapen or out of position. When a fracture is displaced, it has been broken to a degree that causes it to be moved out of its normal location and abnormally shaped. A compound fracture is the most severe type of broken bone, and it occurs when the bone is snapped so severely that it protrudes through the skin and is visible to the naked eye. Obvious this type of break needs urgent treatment, but all broken bones must be properly set and treated in order to heal correctly.

Treating a Broken Arm

A broken bone must be repositioned and set so that it can heal back into the correct place. A non-displaced fracture may not need resetting because this usually involves a crack in the bone where the bone is not misshapen. When the bone is reset, it is placed in a cast or a splint to keep it immobile throughout the healing process. Most broken bones will heal within 1 to 3 months.

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