Humeral Shaft Fracture (broken arm)

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What has happened?

  • You have broken on the bone in your upper arm
  • These fractures often heal without surgery, although some may require further management

What should I expect?

  • Your arm will be swollen and sore, and you will likely develop bruising in your upper arm - this may also go down to your forearm and fingers, which is normal
  • You will be placed in a special cast or sling and this is to help the bone ends heal in line
  • Return to work or sport typically takes 8-12 weeks, and is dependant on the broken arm being completely healed especially if work requires heavy lifting

What should I do?

  • Take regular pain relief (e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen) as needed
  • Leave your arm in the sling until instructed otherwise by the orthopaedic team
  • Keep your fingers and wrist moving as often as you can
  • If your fracture is not displaced (the bone is not moved out of the correct alignment) then you will be advised to start some gentle arm exercises after about a week - 'pendulum exercises' (stand and lean forward, relaxing your injured arm towards the ground, then make small side to side, forwards and back and circular movements with your injured arm).
  • If you are placed in a plaster cast, keep this dry at all times by putting a plastic bag over your cast and securing it with tape before showering.

What should I not do?

  • Don't use the arm for lifting heavy objects
  • You will be unable to drive at this time
  • Try to reduce or stop smoking as this may delay bone healing

Will I be followed up?

  • Yes, a follow-up appointment in the Orthopaedic Clinic will be requested when you leave ED and you will be contacted regarding a date and time

What if I have concerns/questions?

  • If your injury is not settling or you have other concerns, you should see your GP in the first instance - take your ACC form/number with you
  • Please seek medical attention if you experience the following:
    • Increasing pain in the hand
    • Numbness or tingling in the hand
    • Your fingers go cold or turn blue white, in comparison to the other hand
    • You are unable to move your fingers