Your Healthcare Connection: Is My Child’s Arm Broken or Not?

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Dr. Hamblin, a member of Olympia Orthopaedics Associates Sports Medicine team, states that if they see a child within one week of a break they can usually heal the bone with great success.


oly ortho
Dr. Hamblin, a member of Olympia Orthopaedics Associates Sports Medicine team, states that if they see a child within one week of a break they can usually heal the bone with great success.

Fall has arrived. And with it, the return to school, playground antics, soccer practices and gymnastics meets. This return to organized activities typically is accompanied by the inevitable falls, twists, and spills of childhood. When these falls result in injuries, many Grays Harbor County area parents are left asking, “Is that really broken or is it going to be ok?”

I had my first experience asking myself this question last year when my daughter had a spectacular fall from the monkey bars. The school office called, describing the accident and her injuries. I thanked them for the call, reassured my daughter over the phone that she was ok, and told the school nurse an ice pack would be sufficient. That evening, my daughter ate dinner and finished her homework dramatically using only one arm, making sure we all understood her suffering.

I thought I did all the right things – assess mobility, apply ice, wrap it in an old ace bandage found in the back of a drawer. The next morning, however, she was still in pain. As no bruising or swelling were present and she could move her fingers, I gave her some Tylenol and a pat on the back and put her on the bus.

Several days later, my daughter was still in pain and I was suffering a horrible case of mom-guilt. I made an appointment to see a doctor. X-rays confirmed a bad sprain, with a possible ligament pull, but no break this time (whew!).

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Dr. Hamblin embodies a “Life in Motion” with her love of the outdoors, biking and living a healthy lifestyle.

Our situation is likely one you, or a friend, have found yourself in as well. With difficult to diagnosis symptoms, many parents find themselves waiting several days after an initial arm or wrist injury. The good news? You aren’t alone. You are just like the rest of us, and in most cases, doing just the right thing according to Olympia Orthopaedic Associates Sports Medicine physician Dr. Tracy Hamblin.

“It’s very common for parents to not bring in children right away,” says Dr. Hamblin. “We often can’t get a lot of diagnostic information from kids, either, as they don’t have the experience to verbalize their injury or symptoms. We rely heavily on x-rays in these cases.”

Thank you, Dr. Hamblin, for assuring us we aren’t horrible parents. But, if we wait a few days before seeing the doctor, is further damage being done? “Typically, if we see a child with a fracture within the first week after an injury we can work to heal it with great success,” says Hamblin. She continues, explaining that children’s bones heal quickly and noting that small fractures, while hard to detect, are common and easy to treat.

Swelling at the injury site, along with an unwillingness to move the injured area, are common and make diagnosis even more difficult for parents and physicians. X-rays help, but waiting a day or two before a doctors visit isn’t a bad idea.

Forward falls are the most common cause of childhood breaks and sprains, says Hamblin. “Falling on an outstretched hand is the most common mechanism for injuries to the arm, wrist, hand, and elbow,” she explains. While forward falls often result in breaks, sprains, ligament pulls, and deep bruising are also common and can mimic fracture symptoms closely.

Dr. Hamblin shares these tips to help keep your child comfortable at home.

  • Apply ice to the injury immediately to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Wrap the injured area. Compression reduces swelling and aids blood flow and healing.
  • Elevate the injured area above the heart (this often looks a lot like laying on the couch watching TV for kids…they won’t complain).
  • Give Tylenol or Motrin as needed for pain.
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Wondering if an arm is broken? Stop into Oly Ortho’s clinic and be assessed by one of their doctors. Onsite x-ray and casting make it a one-stop fix for broken bones.

However, sometimes you get that nagging feeling that something just isn’t quite right. I call it “mom-radar.” When this happens, it’s time to either make an appointment with your family doctor or book an appointment directly with Olympia Orthopaedic Associates Sports Medicine Clinic. In most cases, you can be seen the same day without a referral. If in doubt, give Oly Ortho a call. Their knowledgeable staff can assist you with a phone referral if needed or schedule your appointment with a sports medicine specialist.

Coming directly to Oly Ortho has many benefits including on-site x-ray and MRI, casting rooms and trained technicians, a variety of splints and braces in stock for patients of all sizes. The most important benefit? Should the injury prove more serious than you thought, you have quick access to an on-site orthopaedic surgeon just down the hall.

Falling down and getting hurt is part of being a kid. However, knowing a few tips to help answer the question, “Is it broken or not?” cane ease the anxiety when your child is injured. And, if you can’t answer that question yourself, you know the trained staff at Olympia Orthopaedic Associates can.

Olympia Orthopaedic Associates

3901 Capital Mall Dr. SW, Olympia


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