How to Provide First Aid Treatment for a Broken Arm

Broken Arm
A kid with a broken arm. Photo by: Sandy Kumar

People who play sports are frequently prone to accidents – sometimes even serious ones. Even if we ensure that all the best safety standards are implemented and that both ours and the adversary team prudently play by strictly following all the rules, sometimes accidents still happen. But bad stuff happens even when you’re not playing sports: any physical activity can be dangerous, including skating or playing airsoft.

Even when you’re just taking care of a few kids running around in a playground, the risk that someone falls, slips or harms himself while dropping to the ground is always present. One of the most common accidents that an active person may incur into is a broken arm. Although calling out for professional help and waiting for an ambulance to arrive is always the best choice, sometimes it’s necessary to provide some basic treatment to the injured in the meanwhile. You may be interested in getting first aid training from Coast 2 Coast First Aid Aquatics for you to be prepared and well-educated about providing first aid.

For example, you may have to act rapidly and provide some basic form of first aid, such as when the patient is bleeding, or roads are too distant for ambulances to reach the place quickly enough. Nonetheless, you must be very careful – improvised treatment can be even more dangerous than no treatment at all if not properly administered.

Basic First Aid Procedures for Arm Fractures

The first thing to do is checking if bleeding is present such as when the patient was seriously injured. If possible, cut the sleeve to check the injury. Use a clean cloth or towel to apply a delicate but firm pressure to the wound area to stop the bleeding, but do not touch the bone or try to put it back in place if it’s protruding or sticking out of the skin.

Next, check if the person suffered any other serious injury such as a trauma to the head, neck, or back. Quickly perform a check on its body to see if he’s bleeding from other sources. People who are in shock are sometimes unable to perceive pain properly and can be unaware of movements that can worsen their conditions further.

Try to reduce swelling and pain by applying ice to the injured area and elevating the arm above the heart (only if possible, do not force movements). Do not put the ice bag directly on the skin: use a towel or cloth to protect the patient from cold burnings, and remove it for a while every 20-30 minutes.

If the injury is not too serious, you should try to immobilize and stabilize the arm. This can be the trickiest part of broken arm first aid treatment as you should avoid moving the arm as much as possible. Do it only if you’re sure of what you’re doing. You can use a towel or the previously cut sleeve as a sling and place it under the arm and around the neck. You can also carefully tape the arm to a rolled-up newspaper or another rigid item (like a stick or a ruler) and tape it in place.

Routine Practices and Additional Precautions

If you have some medications at hand such as an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug or a pain reliever, you may think that giving them to the patient could be a good idea. Just wait, though. The injured person might suffer from allergies or intolerances, so always remember to ask the patient if he can take these medications before administration. Also, check if the injured suffers from any pre-existing condition which might require additional emergency treatment, including hemophilia, or if he’s already taking any other medication. Just don’t be overzealous: do not rush to a pharmacy, and let the professionals do their job.

If the patient was found lying on the ground when he suffered the injury, check whether he or she is in shock. After the accident, that person may have spent a lot of time exposed to the sunlight and may show signs of heat exhaustion. Try to stave off dehydration, and if the patient looks confused or feverish, try to prevent a heat stroke from by lowering his body temperature with a wet towel.

Last Words of Advice

If you are providing basic first aid treatment to a person who just broke his arm, you should keep your head cool at all times. An injured person can be very nervous, so try to avoid stressing him further. To help him calm himself you should first calm yourself down, so if you’re too scared or nervous, let someone else help him to avoid doing more harm than good.

But don’t forget: do not improvise yourself a nurse if you have no knowledge of first aid. Fixing a broken arm may require the help of a specialist orthopaedic surgeon, so always call 911 as soon as you can!

Article Written by Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D.


  1. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Broken Arm.”
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2019, August 20). Fractures (broken bones): First aid
  3. St John New Zealand. (2019, August 20). First Aid Library – Fractures and Dislocations