Upper arm or shoulder - broken

The upper arm or shoulder is broken and is now in a sling. The sling should be used for next couple of weeks.

About your visit

We have examined you and have ascertained that you have broken your upper arm or shoulder. Your arm is now in a sling that you must wear at all times during the next couple of weeks. You must wear the sling when sleeping and while washing. Don’t wear the sling when you take a shower or bath. You may remove the sling to bend and stretch your elbow a couple of times a day.

When you get home

Contact your general practitioner if your condition deteriorates

Call your general practitioner or dial 1813 to reach the medical helpline outside your general practitioner’s opening hours if your hand:

  • begins to feel prickly/tingly or falls asleep
  • becomes numb
  • loses colour
  • becomes hard to move.

These symptoms may be a sign of damaged blood vessels and nerves.

The fracture may hurt for up to three months

You may feel pain around the fracture. This is normal and will pass over time.

It will take approximately six weeks for the fracture to heal, but you may experience pain in your shoulder for up to three months. The worst of the pain should be over after two to three weeks.

Your arm may swell and become discoloured

Swelling in the arm is normal. The shoulder, upper arm and chest can become blue, red and yellow. This is due to harmless bleeding under the skin, which will stop on its own.

Take pain-relieving medicine if you are in pain

You should take pain-relieving medicine if you are in pain. Pain-relieving medicine can be bought over the counter. Take only the amount of pain reliever recommended on the package. Contact your general practitioner if you need help managing the pain.  

Use an ice compress

You can prepare an ice compress and place it on the swollen area or where you are experiencing pain. Wrap a bag of ice in a tea towel, for example, to avoid direct contact with your skin. Use a compress 3-5 times a day for 20-30 minutes.

Wash your armpit daily

Keep the armpit in the sling clean and dry. Wash and dry your armpit daily. If you do not, you may develop armpit fungus since your arm is more stationary than normal.

Move your fingers

The sling is meant to keep your arm immobile so the fracture can heal. However, you should move your fingers many times a day while wearing the sling. At least three times a day, alternate between clenching your fist and then releasing it and stretching your fingers 10-15 times.

After a few weeks, remove the sling and move your arm

Keep the sling on for the first few weeks. After a few weeks, you can remove it at night and instead use a pillow to support your arm and shoulder. You can remove the sling when washing. Stretch and bend your elbow a few times when you remove the sling to prevent the joint from becoming stiff. You can also roll your shoulder a few times but stop when it begins to hurt. You will also need to do exercises to help train the muscles in your arm.

Pain is normal. Exercise at a moderate pace, and do not continue an exercise if you feel resistance or acute pain. Plan your exercises around times when your pain is well managed.

Exercise your arm several times a day and repeat each exercise as many times as you can. If it becomes painful, take a break and then try again.

    Exercise 1

    • Make a fist. You can hold a small ball, if needed.
    • Stretch and spread your fingers.

    Exercise 2

    Bend your arms at your elbow and hold them horizontally in front of you. You can also sit at a table and rest your forearms and hands in front of you on the table.

    • The palms of your hand should be facing upwards. Then turn your palms over, facing downwards.

    Exercise 3

    Hold up your arm and support it with the opposite hand.

    • Bend the on the arm you are supporting so your palm faces downwards.
    • Flip your hand backwards so the back of your hand faces downwards.
    • Repeat with the opposite hand.

    You can see a video of the exercises on https://regionh.dk/00s or hold your smartphone camera over this QR code: