Fractures of The Arm in Senior Citizens


Eighty-seven percent of fractures suffered by senior citizens are attributable to falling. Each year, 33.33% of America’s senior citizens fall. Below we will be discussing the causes, symptoms, treatment, and bone health in seniors. MedicineNet reports that seniors are likely to fracture the humerus (upper arm bone) and forearm. The primary types of arm breaks are displaced and non-displaced. A displaced fracture occurs when the two sections of bone become unaligned at the fracture site. During a non-displaced fracture, the two sections of bone remain in alignment. 

Forearm Fracture 

A broken forearm is commonly the result of extending the arm to break a fall. Indicators of a fractured forearm are extreme pain that is aggravated by movement of the arm, swelling, and a marked malformity of the arm. An open wound at the fracture site is an indication that the bone had pierced the skin. Numbness or paralysis in the arm is symptomatic of nerve damage. A non-displaced fracture does not require surgery. Usually, the only treatment required is a cast or splint. Surgery is indicated in the case of a displaced fracture or if the bone punctures the skin. If both bones of the forearm, radius, and ulna, are broken the bones will be secured with screws, pins, and plates to ensure proper healing. 

Fractured Humerus 

When the humerus is fractured near the elbow it is a distal fracture. A break in the middle of the humerus is a mid-shaft fracture. A proximal fracture occurs at the top of the humerus near the shoulder. Let us concentrate on distal fractures since they are most commonly suffered by people of advanced age. Distal fractures can be the result of osteoporosis. Using the arm to cushion a fall or receiving a blow to the arm can result in a fracture of the upper humerus. Other potential causes include electric shock and seizures. The symptoms for a forearm fracture also apply to a broken humerus. The symptoms that are unique to a fractured humerus as listed by Johns Hopkins are bruising and grinding. Loss of movement in the shoulder is possible. Non-surgical treatment involves immobilization possibly using a collar and cuff sling. Generally, the arm will have to remain immobile for 2-3 weeks. If the head of the humerus comes out of the shoulder socket (dislocation) surgery is needed. When the bone pierces the skin or the rotator cuff is damaged surgery is necessary. Damage to blood vessels, nerves, and cartilage are corrected surgically. 

Bone Health 

Men between the ages of 50 and 70 need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. Women of the same age need 1,200 milligrams daily. Calcium can come from green leafy vegetables, dairy, or a supplement. To help the body manufacture Vitamin D seniors should get 10 minutes of sun exposure daily. Vitamin D and calcium levels should be checked regularly. The elderly should also receive regular bone density tests.