Fractures of the Arm and Hand
There are three long bones in each arm - one in the upper arm and two below the elbow. These are among the most commonly broken bones in the body. There is also a number of small bones in the wrist that are vulnerable to breaks. Fractures to the hand or fingers can be extremely painful because of the many nerve endings.
The principles of treatment are, as for all broken bones, to provide support to the injured part and to stop it from moving too much. Most people with a broken arm will be able to make their own way to hospital or a health centre, so treatment focuses on providing support that is appropriate when walking and stabilises the injured limb. This can be done with an improvised sling using clothing, or by using a triangular bandage to form an arm sling.
How to make an arm sling
Broken elbow or an arm that cannot bend
If the broken bone is on or near the elbow it may not be possible for the casualty to bend the arm, either because of the pain or because the joint is fixed. In this case you need to treat the arm in the position found - do not try to bend the arm.
In older adults, the wrist may be broken by a fall on to an outstretched hand, causing a break very low down on the radius (one of the long bones in the lower arm) known as a Colles's or dinner fork fracture. Other injuries can break one of the small bones to the wrist or cause a sprain that is particularly difficult to distinguish from a break.
First Aid Treatment
Provide support and immobilisation in the same way as for a break to the upper or lower arm. Remove watches and bracelets as these may contribute to cutting off circulation to the hand if the injury swells.
Direct impact may break one or two of the small bones in the palm or fingers. Crushing injuries may break several bones and cause considerable bleeding. In addition the thumb, and even some of the fingers, may become dislocated.
First Aid Treatment
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