Limb (Arm and Leg) Symptoms > Arm or Leg Trauma

Arm or Leg Trauma

Injury Definition

  • Injuries to a bone, muscle, joint or ligament
  • Injuries to arms and legs
  • Types of injuries include the following:
    • Fractures (broken bones)
    • Dislocations (bone out of joint)
    • Sprains - stretches and tears of ligaments
    • Strains - stretches and tears of muscles (e.g. pulled muscle)
    • Muscle overuse injuries from sports or exercise (e.g. shin splints of lower leg)
    • Muscle bruise from a direct blow (e.g. charley horse of thigh muscles)
    • Bone bruise from a direct blow (e.g. hip or elbow)

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Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If

  • Serious injury with multiple fractures
  • Major bleeding that can't be stopped

Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If

  • You think your child has a serious injury
  • Looks like a broken bone or dislocated joint
  • Swollen elbow or any large swelling
  • Skin beyond the injury is pale or blue
  • Age < 1 year old
  • Severe pain
  • Won't stand, walk or has a bad limp when walking
  • Unable to move arm normally (especially if someone pulled on the arm)
  • Joint nearest the injury can't be moved fully (opened and closed)
  • Knee injury with a "snap" or "pop" felt at the time of impact.

Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 and 4) If

  • You think your child needs to be seen

Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If

  • You have other questions or concerns

Parent Care at Home If

  • Bruised muscle or bone
  • Mild strained (pulled) muscle
  • Mild sprained (stretched) ligament

Home Care Advice for Mild Pain, Mild Swelling or Mild Limp

  1. Treatment of Strained Muscle, Bruised Muscle or Bruised Bone:
    • Apply an ice bag or massage the area with ice for 20 minutes per hour. Repeat for 4 consecutive hours. After 48 hours, use local heat for 10 minutes 3 times per day to help reabsorb the blood
    • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen 4 times per day for pain. Continue for at least 48 hours
    • Rest the injured part as much as possible for 48 hours
    • For strained muscles, teach the youngster about stretching exercises and conditioning
  2. Treatment of Mild Sprains of Ankle or Knee
    • First aid: immediate compression and ice to reduce bleeding, swelling, and pain
    • Treat with R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) for the first 24 to 48 hours
    • Apply compression with a snug, elastic bandage for 48 hours
    • Numbness, tingling, or increased pain means the bandage is too tight
    • Apply crushed ice in a plastic bag for 20 minutes per hour. Repeat for 4 consecutive hours
    • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen 4 times per day for pain. Continue for at least 48 hours
    • Keep injured ankle or knee elevated and at rest for 24 hours
    • After 24 hours, allow any activity that doesn't cause pain
  3. Expected Course: Pain and swelling usually peak on day 2 or 3. Swelling is usually gone by 7 days. Pain may take 2 weeks to completely resolve
  4. Call Your Doctor If
    • Pain becomes severe
    • Pain is not improving after 3 days
    • Pain lasts > 2 weeks
    • Your child becomes worse or develops any of the "Call Your Doctor" symptoms