Hairline Fractures in Arm's and Elbows

Updated on February 26, 2008
C.D. asks from Columbia, MD
11 answers

My son is 6 and on Thursday he fell from the 4 1/2 foot chin up bar on the playground and landed on the playground surface (not sure what its composition is but the ground feels sort of rubbery). He immediately started crying but was able to move his arm and fingers. Within 10 nimutes his arm was swollen and very warm to the touch. We took him to the ER where they did x-rays and put him in a hard splint for 5 days till his follow-up appt with an orthopaedic specialist. They said that it wasn't broken from what they could see but they couldn't rule out a hairline fracture or any muscle or ligament damage. It does not look bruised from the naked eye but is very visibly swollen when we remove his splint and he says his elbow hurts a lot when touched from any angle within 2 inches from his elbow. he says it doesn't hurt all the time but sometimes when he's laying in bed with his eyes closed ready to fall asleep it hurts. I've given him tylenol or advil regularly as needed and always right before bed to keep the pain away. Has anyone else ever had this situation and what was the diagnosis and symptoms and the treatment? Thanks for your help.

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So What Happened?

He had his 2nd follow up appointment today with the orthopaedic specialist and they took additional x-rays and there was a fracture in his elbow. Luckily the bones weren't displaced so no surgery...thank God. He has a bright yellow cast on his arm which he was not happy about but at least it can start healing totally. Thanks for all your help with everything. Hearing everyone else's experiences made us feel so much better. Thank you so much.

More Answers


answers from Allentown on

Hi C.,

Have you taken the child to the Orthopedic specialist yet?

That is your best bet. Keep the splint on, don't take it off. D.



answers from Cumberland on

I have a son (now 16) and he has broken his arm and leg. He fell from a tree and said he hurt his arm, it did not swell right away and so we thought he just hurt it. The next day it was swollen a little around the wrist area and he would carry his arm around and favored it. And he could still move his fingers and arm. In fact when he broke his leg in basketball he could still move it and even walked from the court to the locker room. He was on a trampoline and broke his leg. The ER Dr. said he had a bad sprain but put him in a splint until he could see the orthopedic Dr. When we get to the ortho. Dr. his leg was broke in two places.Our son is very active in sports and plays hard, and we kept Dr. Dona very busy for a while. I would call the ortho Dr. and let them know what is going on nd see if they can either see him now or at least look at his x-ray. From experience the ER Dr's do not always see fractures. Hope this helps.

T. B.



answers from Washington DC on

My daughter had almost the same thing happen to her in September over labor day weekend. She was jumping on a trampoline with her cousins and fell on one of their knees with her elbow and started to cry she wouldn't leave my side for the rest of the day. We took her to the ER and they said that she was okay but we should take her to an orthopedic for a follow up. When we took her she had a fractured elbow and they put her in a cast for 4 weeks. Once she had the cast on she seemed to be fine. It was a little ackward at first but she got use to it. My daughter was 5 when it happened.

Hope this helps you.



answers from Washington DC on

Most of our various injuries showed something on the xray, but the real injuries were identified from MRI's. My son's chipped finger (at 10)was tapped and healed fine. My weak arm showed nothing in the Xray (everyone wanted to blame a rotator cuff injury), but the MRI showed a slight bulge of a disk against the spinal cord causing pinched nerves needing primarily physical therapy to open nerve signals. No problems now. My daughters (at 17) skiing injury showed a hint of a fracture in one vertabrae, but he MRI clearly showed three minor fractures. My son's friend injured his hip at age 7 (skiing). At 12 he still complained of hip pain, they eventually found a bone chip that had 'grown' to the size on acorn floating around in his hip joint. Once removed he had no problems. Another friends very athletic son ended up with an infection in his hip, possibly resulting from torn tissue or a sports injury, they never really determined why. So the advise is if your son still hurts keep asking the doctors, maybe there's torn tissue damage, maybe there's a bone chip. Don't stop with just Xrays. Of course injuries do take time to heal and stop hurting. My son's finger was tapped for two weeks, my daughter wore back support for 4 weeks, but was in pain for almost 2 months.



answers from Washington DC on

My son fell off his brand new bike at his birthday party when he was 3. He held his arm right away and couldn't move it without crying. We took him to the ER. They said he had a hairline fracture close to his elbow. They explained to me that a hairline fracture is just another way to say he broke his arm. He had to be in a cast for 5 weeks. After it was mobilized, he didn't complain about it hurting and he played as normally as possible. After they removed the cast, he was fine and he hasn't had a problem with his arm since.



answers from Norfolk on

A hairline fracture is a break it just isn't all the way through the bone and yes it hurts. The muscle was pulled and it spasms and makes it hurt when you turn it a certain way. My son had his wrist broken 6 times while he was growing up. You should give the advil or motrin and cut back on the tylenol. Tylenol is not the best choice anymore. Hope this helps.



answers from Washington DC on

My mother-in-law had a hairline fracture on her elbow. She said it hurt like the devil. And there wasn't anything the doctors could do becuase it was her elbow. It took a while to heal (although she is in her 50s and hopefully your son will heal quicker becuase he's young). She did just like you are doing and used ice packs to help with the inflamation. Good luck! I hope it gets better soon, for his sake and yours.



answers from Washington DC on

Hi C.!! My son had a hairline fracture to his wrist at 1 1/2 and was put in a cast. It was the result of falling off the bottom step and hitting his wrist against the baseboard. Until he goes to the orthopaedic specialist, I would try to keep him comfortable with the motrin/tylenol. At that time, they may end up putting him in a cast just to immobilize it so it can heal properly.





answers from Norfolk on

Good Morning C., It is very common for an injury as that to hurt for several days. Our teenage daughter hurt her arm and we worried that it may be broken. Doctors told us the same, that it was a bad bruise on the bone and would take time for the pain to go away. I also know from my own injury years ago that it can take several days to a week for a hairline fracture to actually show up on an x-ray. This is why they have set up the follow up appointment and splint it just incase it is a hairline fracture. Your pain managment is correct but another good way to help is to alternate tylenol with Motrin (you may want to call your Dr to make sure of the correct timing between and if it's ok for his age), I have found that to help more then any. You also may want to elevate the arm through the night. Good luck and hope all goes well.




answers from Washington DC on

keep splint on till doc says take it off your son will show you the best way he wants his arm, you always feel more pain at rest than awake due to relaxation see a bone doc and one that sees kids. My daughter broke her rt arm both bones clean though at school on the monkey bars I learned a lot from her I am also a E.M.T. I do 911 were I live so mom just relax and take pics of his arm and you and him write a story and make a bad boo boo book so when he gets older he can share with his kids Good Luck
W. mommy 3 kids



answers from Danville on

Hi C..
I have had some experience in regards to my daughter falling from the top of a slide. She dislocated her shoulder and was 7 at the time. For pain I would stay away from Tynelol. It is hard on the liver. Advil is good, but Motrin is actually better. 4X a day is best. Both contain Iboprofen which is excellent to help reduce swelling and with pain, especially with children.
For when your son goes to sleep, have you tried taking a very soft blanket or pillow and cushioning his arm on it so that it is suspended? Though he says his elbow is the area that hurts, I have learned over the years that with children it could be another area causing the pain. (Pain Transferrance - hurts in one spot, but comes actually from another area because of the way the nerves run in the arm.)
Depending on how his body reacts to hot or cold, either would be good to help relieve some of the pain. My daughter would swell more with cold compresses, but with hot would help take some of the swelling down and relieve the pain.
I would also push to get your son in sooner to the doctor. Sometimes waiting days is not good. Children heal faster than adults.
To me it sounds like he could have some tendon or muscle damage in the elbow area. But I am not a doctor, and don't want you to rely on that diagnosis.
I hope this helps you. Watching your child hurt is hard on any parent. I myself have three children. Boy 22, and two girls, 17 and 15. I only have my youngest at home now. She has Epilepsy and requires a lot of monitoring.
My best to you and your son. Let us know what the doctor said about your son.

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