How to survive with a broken arm

Recently I wrote about how I broke my arm while out with my dogs. When chatting with Grace the other day, she thought it would be fun and perhaps informative if I told you what life is like with my dominant arm out of action.


If I explain first that I have a an upper humerus fracture which is also impacted. Last week I don’t think I could’ve written this post as my sense of humour as well as my humerus bone were both impaired. However 10 days later I am more on top of the situation and I’m functioning reasonably well (doing nothing) albeit very slowly. But as someone said to me, “going it alone is not an option.”

First and foremost you have no idea, until it happens, how much we use the muscles in our upper arms and shoulders. Every time you stand up or sit down you engage these muscles and consequently shooting pains run up your arm and across your back. In the beginning my very patient OH would pull me up so that I did not have to use any muscles; but you soon realise how often this service is required, so you quickly have to re- think. I learnt that if I shuffled to the edge of my seat and then held my right arm with my left, around the break, I could stand by engaging my core and thigh muscles. Consequently I could stand and sit with relative ease. This was vital when going to the loo and probably was helpful with protecting the marital relationship!


As I am not wearing a cast, I am able to take off the sling and shower reasonably successfully. Flip lids are essential as pump action or screw tops involve both a second hand and muscle action. I’m lucky to have short hair, so washing that is not a problem. A non-slip mat in the shower (and possibly all around the house!) is advisable. The hot water of the shower is very soothing on my back and shoulders which are bearing the brunt of this break – the only total solution would be a full-time physio on hand! I experienced this when a girlfriend, who is a physio, came to supper on Saturday evening. She massaged my shoulder blades and neck which was the only time I have been pain-free. I suggested to my LH that he let her tyres down and locked her in our house, but I’m not sure if our friendship could have endured this temporary imprisonment!


The one movement that is out of the question is moving my arm outwards i.e. I can’t do my funky chicken dance! This is quite tricky when trying to wash my underarm and it is also quite essential. Once again a helpful friend suggested baby wipes which have been very useful all round.

Getting dressed is not so easy. I have no idea how people manage without a cooperative husband/partner. There are various items of a women’s apparel that are a complete no-no with one arm – but which cannot be discarded unless you happen to be a bra burning feminist of the 60s.  So the bra and knickers are number one on this list. Knickers should be easy to pull up and down. In practice however, down is achievable but up requires you to be a hula hoop champion, wriggling and twisting and even then you can never get them straight so they do become rather irritating. The bra is simple but does require two people therefore, again, I had to rethink and I chose to wear a body. This sits easier however the poppers are challenging with one hand and on one occasion I had to implore my husband to complete the task. He was heard to say, “This brings back happy memories“, but we won and another crisis was averted!


Socks are impossible. So furry slippers are the obvious solution but can be a bit slippery so you need something that has a proper sole. My choice was Mahabis and because they have an indoor and outdoor sole they have worked well. All trousers have to have an elasticated waist as buttons and zips are frustratingly difficult to do up one-handed. For the top half, Grace sent me some zip up hoodies in large sizes so that I could accommodate my sling underneath. This does keep my broken arm warm however it is best to have the sling visible, when out in public, so that people can avoid bashing it. On this note I experienced some intolerance when I went to the theatre to see The Entertainer with Kenneth Branagh, a treat I had been looking forward to for some time. The play was worth the effort.  However when I asked one lady to be careful as she shuffled past me to get to her seat, I overheard her say to her friend that I should stay at home if I was worried about someone bashing my arm. I hope she never breaks a bone!

Another tip is to tell your neighbours of your predicament so that they are forewarned in case you get stuck and are on your own, so need rescuing. This happened to me once when I was in bed and I had slipped down so that when I woke up I found I could not sit up without terrific pain and I needed someone to pull me up. Keep the mobile phone close as after a quick call, help was on its way.


Pain relief is available in the form of codeine. However every single person that I have told has advised me to drink prune juice or take Senokot for the obvious reasons. Constipation would not be welcome in my current state. Prune juice is quite disgusting; so I found a slightly more pleasant form – a prune yoghurt. Talking of food there is a strong possibility that you will eat a lot of carbs. Visitors come bearing boxes of chocolates and apart from opening the packaging, the rest is easy with one hand. So with my gym membership on hold and even walking not an option in this weather, the chances are I will still be wearing size 14 tops and ponchos (a current fashion solution) even when I have discarded the sling.

The positives are that I have watched all of House of Cards, The Crown, and Grace and Frankie on Netflix which had been on my list to do for some time and which I can highly recommend. I am now more in the mood to read books as for the first 10 days TV seemed to require less concentration.

However after all of this being housebound I will have to face up two weeks of painful physio. The moral of this story is not to going running on a frosty morning with an eight month old puppy!

This post was written using the Apple dictation facility. Apart from always putting a capital letter after a comma, and struggling with names, it is very efficient and I may not return to typing at all.


  1. Some great tips here thanks Annabel. It’s so good to hear that you have found some great solutions to help you with your predicament…they could also be very useful for people with other disabilities. Good luck with your physio!

  2. In a similar situation some years ago I found the two things that saved my sanity were front fastening bras and a fold down seat in the shower that we had fitted but only used to wash our feet before my accident. Both things allowed me to be reasonably independent and lifted my mood when I realised that I could retain some semblance of privacy and dignity.

    • Yes front fastening bras are a godsend. I think my dignity went from the moment I had to have my top half clothes cut off at the hospital! The lack of independence is such a pain but will make me much more aware of others when they are in similar situations. Annabel

  3. Great to read your blog. I slipped on our decking ( new house – old decking) on Tuesday ( Nov12th2018) crashing down resulted in breaking my humerusnear the shoulder so no Plaster for me either. Pain incredible but trying to cope with paracetamol & codeine. Still waiting for my husband to buy the syrup of figs ! May have to get senokot on line. Having
    relocated to a new part of the country recently I have no friends to help me on hand. Husband very intelligent but total impractical
    & had to show him even how to make a salad & cut off the top of a boiled egg!!! Four days in I am learning new skills with my teeth ,feet & toes in spite of having arthritis. Washed my hair under the bathroom tap & plugged the hairdryer in with my foot! Thanks for the idea of front fastening bra thought I was going to have abandon any idea of wearing one!! I only have jeans but a bit of elastic helps threaded through the loophole can be pulled over the button bit. Haven’t managed to shower but a flannel – one for top & one for bottom has been useful! Fortunately it is my left arm that is affected although my golf swing may be limited in the future. Any more tips gratefully received! Disappointed to have my wedding ring cut off after 50 yrs but there you go. Onward & upwards!

    • You poor thing – as I read your note my shoulder started to twinge in sympathy. It is a gruelling time for everyone and it made me think carefully about never letting it happen again if possible. My skiing days are over! Good luck and I hope it repairs quickly. Ax

      • Hi I am in week 3-4 now . I found a great bra on Amazon that has no fastenings & I can pull on like my vest tops. I was doing great with my physio exercises – making my arm like a pendulum & finding I was managing to grip with my left fingers. Just been told that these exercises are not suitable for the effect it is having on my shoulder joint ! Great! Now I was told to support my arm & keep it still ( impossible) with no extra or different sling & do different exercises which are hellishly painful- lifting arm across my chest upwards! Guess this is going to be a long process!

        • How are you sleeping? I was given wrong exercises by hospital doctor at first and my physio was shocked. The first sling they gave me was hopeless and then I got a great black one with velcro which worked well and was much more supportive. The velcro meant I could easily tighten it as my arm weight would make it slip after a while. I wrapped battery operated Christmas lights around it when I went anywhere crowded so no-one bumped into me!! Good luck. Ax

          • Hi I am now approaching Week 8 . I was frustrated not to have been given any x Ray or physio & had no appointment until mid Jan. I decided to pen a letter ( very polite) to the Fracture clinic consultant asking if it was usual not to have a second x Ray or physio until 10 weeks after accident. I immediately got a phone call to attend x Ray & Fracture clinic the next day! I had the red carpet treatment & can only say the letter was well worth the effort. I do realise our NHS staff are under great pressure & it is no wonder things get over looked.
            I was told that I didn’t need my sling anymore & I was ahead in the healing process. I think my husband thought this was due to him as he still let me prepare & cook all meals!! I am now doing lots of exercises & although very painful am making progress. ( I even had a go at driving my car ) I do ,however ,still need to sit propped up at night for comfort. For anyone who has just had a similar accident recently it does get easier as the weeks pass. Thank you for reading & a Happy New Year to all x

  4. This is so helpful! I just broke my dominant arm humerus three days ago. Luckily got into ER and have a temp splint/sling. Break is about 2″ down from shoulder but what is most painful, is muscle at top of shoulder. Did you ice alot?
    I have a strapless bra with snap in straps I am going to try- all with my wonderful husband help. Did you drive at all?
    I ride dressage and was getting ready for show season. Now can’t even hold her!

    • I used to stand under a hot shower and that brought relief. I had a lot of physio but the best therapy was photobiomodulation. I was very fortunate that there was someone in my town who practises using this laser therapy. He really helped with all my neck and shoulder pain caused by the break. Hope that helps. A

  5. This is so helpful! Thank you all. I broke my left wrist 10 days ago in Mexico – I had to have surgery and the pins should come out in 7 more weeks, with 8 weeks rehab to follow. I googled ‘how to manage with a broken arm’ because dressing and personal hygiene are so difficult. I have discovered that public toilets here are impossible to lock with one hand, and it is very embarrassing to go up to my OH in public so he can button up my pants!
    I am flying home to Canada next week. Anyone have any experience with flying with this injury or getting priority boarding?
    One positive thing is finding your witty helpful blog – silver lining!

    • Thank you – glad you like CW. I do appreciate what you are going through. I would contact your airline as they should give you priority boarding at the very least. I once travelled after a foot operating and I requested a wheelchair and it was brilliant as you don’t have to endure any of the queues. Good luck. A x

  6. Hi Phil here, and just reading your blog…have broken upper humerus, when skiing and just read no more skiing for you!…my friends mentioned this to me and i didn’t know whether this was in jest or serious, as they are professional skiiers. any reason for your remark..thanks Phil

    • I just couldn’t put myself or my family through the ordeal. 3 months of pain, no sleep and no driving. My poor long suffering family had to step in and do so much. So why put myself at risk again. I will still go to the mountains and enjoy other sports, walking etc. Good luck with your rehab. A.

  7. Oh Annabel thank you for this. I fell and broke my humerus 2 days ago and yes it is very painful. Not sure when I should have my first shower. Just great reading other people’s experiences. Had to smile. Taking codeine with usual results cover so grateful we grow lots of kiwifruit in the garden.

    • So glad that you are coping. So debilitating and painful with all the knock-on effects! Get better soon. Ax

  8. I fell and broke my humerus last Sunday 22nd September. I went to feed my daughters chickens and slipped. I am by the way 71. The pain was horrendous my husband helped me into the house and luckily my son in law is medical so I was seen very swiftly at the hospital. I am now nearly a week in. We have developed a routine my husband and I for showering and dressing all of which is painful and incredibly awkward. Sleeping is difficult, I am finding it hard to sleep sitting up. I found your blog by accident and it is refreshing to read of positive outcomes as everything I’ve read so far is all doom and gloom about the long term recovery.

    • I have recently achieved a shoulder stand in my Yoga class, something my surgeon told me I would never be able to do! It is an horrendous time after a fracture but it sounds like your husband is supportive. Sleep is an issue so rest when you can. I hope it mends quickly. Best Annabel

  9. Greetings from Colorado Springs, Colorado! Thanks for post, everything is absolutely true. Very fortunate to have had Ketamine! My arm was magically placed by my side from overhead after tripping up stairs, and falling on an adjacent doorway. I’m three weeks in. What.a.year.

  10. Hi Annabel, my Mum fell today and has broken her neck of humerus. Do you have any tips you can give me as the person who will be helping her with her injury? It’s so good to hear that you have been able to get back to some semblance of normality!x

    • I am so sympathetic to your Mum. It is 14 weeks of not sleeping through the night and sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I would get up in the night and have a hot shower so that the heat helped the pain. I think two vital purchases are a long sausage pillow to prop one up at night so you don’t roll over and the other purchase would be an electric heat pad that you can place on the painful area as heat does help. Hope that helps. Best wishes to you and your Mum, Annabel

  11. So pleased to have come across your blog.I’m a keen walker but unfortunately 6 days ago I tripped on the pavement a part of which was covering a tree root so was tilted up before crashing down.
    Suffered knee and eye injuries but my arm was unbelievably painful. Reading your experience has given me hope for the future. By the wayI am 79 but very fit just very clumsy

    • You poor thing. I hope your arm is not broken. Sounds like you are really in the wars. Hope you repair quickly. Best wishes, Annabel x

  12. Thank you for this wonderful blog post about breaking the
    Humerus! I was walking my son’s Goldendoodle last Friday and she saw a cat! I went flying and fractured my humerus at the top! My granddaughter has flown in from NC to stay for this first week and I have just laughed at the things you have mentioned! I think dressing is the hardest snd sleeping is the next! I still have not mastered either. I’m trying to not take the codine any longer but may take it at night!
    I surely wish someone could invent something to help pull up pants!!!!!
    Thank you for your good advice!
    Patti Jordan

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