Should Your Child See a Doctor?
Is this your child's symptom?
- Injuries to the arm shoulder to fingers
- Injuries to a bone, muscle, joint or ligament
- Excluded: Muscle pain caused by too much exercise or work overuse. Covered in Arm Pain.
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 pulling or lifting a child by the arm. 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 for Arm Injury
Call 911 Now
- Serious injury with many broken bones
- Major bleeding that can't be stopped
- Bone is sticking through the skin
- You think your child has a life-threatening emergency
Call Doctor Now or Go to ER
- Can't move the shoulder, elbow or wrist normally
- Can't open and close the hand normally
- Skin is split open or gaping and may need stitches
- Age under 1 year old
- Severe pain and not improved 2 hours after taking pain medicine
- You think your child has a serious injury
- You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent
Call Doctor Within 24 Hours
- Very large bruise or swelling
- Pain not better after 3 days
- You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent
Call Doctor During Office Hours
- Injury limits sports or school work
- Dirty cut and no tetanus shot in over 5 years
- Clean cut and no tetanus shot in over 10 years
- Pain lasts over 2 weeks
- You have other questions or concerns
Self Care at Home
- Bruised muscle or bone from direct blow
- Pain in muscle from minor pulled muscle
- Pain around joint from minor stretched ligament
Estimated Urgent Care Wait Times
These are estimated wait times for each Urgent Care clinic. Wait times may vary depending on the severity of the illnesses we are treating.
If your child’s illness or injury is life-threating, call 911.
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.
- 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 information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Last Reviewed: 09/01/2012
Last Revised: 09/01/2012
Copyright 1994-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.