Diagnosis of common arm injuries depends on your history of injury — for example, whether the condition is acute or chronic — and the location and type of pain you experience. Your doctor will likely begin with a detailed history to understand how it developed and whether a specific incident such as a fall preceded your condition.
Other common diagnostic tests for arm conditions include:
- Physical exams to look for deformities, bruising, swelling, or other signs of injury; and to evaluate your range of motion.
- Imaging tests such as MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, and x-rays to get a picture of your soft tissue and bones and look for injuries.
- Blood tests or other tests to look for underlying causes that may be presenting as arm injuries.
Treatment for arm injuries depends on the type, location, and severity of the injury.
Sprains and strains can often be treated with at-home measures like elevation, icing, heat, rest, and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory and pain medications such as ibuprofen.
Casting or splinting is necessary for dislocated and broken bones, depending on the bone affected and the treatment. These types of injury may also require reduction, in which the bones are replaced in their normal position. Sometimes our doctors recommend corticosteroid shots to reduce inflammation.
In rare cases, such as to repair a complex or open fracture or to repair a torn tendon, arm surgery is required. Regardless of the treatment plan, our doctors at Dignity Health will work with you to determine the best course of action.
Your specific arm condition, along with your medical history and risk factors, will determine your recovery time. Many arm conditions and injuries get better with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medicines for several weeks. Though many injuries are chronic, meaning they last a long time, most will respond to treatment and adjusting your behavior.
Most fractures heal within two to three months of the injury. In many cases, physical therapy can speed your recovery and prevent future problems.
Dignity Health provides expert care for arm conditions and injuries as part of our orthopedic specialty.
When to seek emergency care for an arm condition
Most arm conditions are the result of mild injuries. Many will resolve on their own or with at-home treatment, such as elevation, compression, and ice.
In rare cases, pain in the arm can indicate something more serious. If you notice one or more of the following, please contact your doctor:
- Pain in the arm accompanied by a fever
- Pain in the arm accompanied by a visible deformity or severe swelling
- Pain in the arm accompanied by severe abdominal pain
- Sudden loss of range of motion (such as not being able to grip something)
- Loss of motor control on one side of your body, or having sudden weakness in one arm
- Pain in the arm that is severe or limits your ability to conduct normal activities
- Pain in the arm that does not improve after several days of rest and at-home care
- Pain in the arm after an injury such as a fall
The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.