First aid for a suspected broken bone
- If a bone is sticking out of your skin, do not try to push it back into your skin. It is better to leave the bone alone and cover the area with a clean bandage.
- Control bleeding from your injury.
- Remove all rings, bracelets, watches, or any other jewelry from the injured arm immediately. It may be hard to remove the jewelry if swelling occurs, which in turn can cause other serious problems, such as nerve compression or restricted blood flow.
- Splint your injured arm without trying to straighten it. Loosen the wrap around the splint if you develop signs that indicate the wrap is too tight, such as numbness, tingling, increased pain, swelling, or cool skin below the wrap. A problem called compartment syndrome can develop.
If a cast or splint is applied, it is important to keep it dry and to try to move the uninjured part of your arm as normally as possible to help maintain muscle strength and tone. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to care for your cast or splint.
Home treatment for a minor injury
Home treatment may help relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Remove all rings, bracelets, watches, or any other jewelry that goes around your wrist or fingers of the injured arm. It will be more difficult to remove the jewelry later if swelling increases.
- Use rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to treat pain and swelling.
- Wear a sling for the first 48 hours after the injury if it makes you more comfortable and supports the injured area. If you feel you need to use a sling for more than 48 hours, discuss your symptoms with your doctor.
- An elbow support, such as an elbow sleeve, forearm wrap, or arm sling, may help rest your elbow joint, relieve stress on your forearm muscles, and protect your joint during activity. A counterforce brace may be helpful for tennis elbow symptoms. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for using the brace.
- Gently massage or rub the area to relieve pain and encourage blood flow. Do not massage the injured area if it causes pain.
- For the first 48 hours after an injury, avoid things that might increase swelling, such as hot showers, hot tubs, hot packs, or alcoholic beverages.
- After 48 to 72 hours, if swelling is gone, apply heat and begin gentle exercise with the aid of moist heat to help restore and maintain flexibility. Some experts recommend alternating between hot and cold treatments.
- If applying ice to your elbow does not reduce the swelling, talk with your doctor about hydrocortisone gel treatments (phonophoresis) with a physical therapist.
- Start exercises using the MSA process (gentle exercise). MSA stands for movement, strength, and alternate activities.
- Movement. Resume a full range of motion as soon as possible after an injury. After 24 to 48 hours of rest, begin moving the injured area. Stop any activity if it causes pain, and give the injured area more rest. Gentle stretching will prevent the formation of scar tissue that may decrease movement.
- Strength. Once the swelling is gone and range of motion is restored, begin gradual efforts to strengthen the injured area. Hand grip exercises can help you regain elbow strength. Using a small ball, such as an old tennis ball, squeeze the ball 20 to 25 times holding each squeeze for about 5 seconds. After 2 to 3 weeks of hand grip exercises, you may begin forearm exercises of extending or bending the elbow.
- Alternate activities. After the first few days but while the injury is still healing, slowly add in regular exercise, such as activities or sports that do not place a strain on the injured area. If certain activities cause pain, stop doing those activities but continue doing your other exercises.