How Do I Give First Aid for Fractures?

C. Webb

With over 200 bones in the human body, fractures for some can seem almost inevitable. While many people live their entire lives without breaking a bone, others seem to fracture bones on a regular basis. Knowing how to give first aid for fractures if you or someone you are with fractures a bone can reduce your stress level if it happens. Proper first aid for fractures depends on several injury factors.

A fractured finger or other body part should be splinted to prevent it from moving until medical help can be obtained.
A fractured finger or other body part should be splinted to prevent it from moving until medical help can be obtained.

Never ask the injured person to try and move the limb that contains the suspected fracture. The often held belief that if you can move the part, the bone is not broken, is false. Broken bones do not always prevent movement. In addition, moving a limb that has a fractured bone can exacerbate the injury. First aid for fractures should not include movement of the injured area.

First aid for fractures should not include movement of the injured area.
First aid for fractures should not include movement of the injured area.

Ask the injured person what happened. Some people report hearing the bone snap, which is an indicator of fracture. Feel very lightly along the injured area for swelling. Visually inspect the area for deformities. A fractured bone can change the shape of the limb or joint.

Immobilize the joints above and below the suspected fracture. Bending a joint can cause further injury to the fracture. Use splints to prevent the joints from moving until a medical evaluation takes place. Ice reduces swelling. To prevent or reduce swelling, apply ice packs.

Check whether the injured person has any sensation below the suspected fracture. Feel for a pulse. A lack of pulse warrants an emergency call for assistance.

You should also call for emergency help if there is a lot of bleeding, the skin has been pierced by the bone, or the limb appears to be deformed. In addition, if the skin has a blue tint to it, an emergency call is prudent. A bluish tint may be caused a lack of circulation.

While first aid for fractures can be implemented in many cases without calling for emergency assistance, fractures of some bones should not be handled without medical training. They include fractures of the neck, back, pelvis, or hip. If you suspect a bone in the upper leg is broken, it also warrants a call for help.

Treat all suspected fractures as if you know they are fractures. Treatment for sprains and dislocations is similar to treatment for a fracture. Do not try and reset the bone. Let health care professionals do it.

Do not give the injured person anything to eat or drink until a medical professional allows it. Some fractures require surgery to repair. Eating or drinking beforehand can cause nausea and vomiting from the anesthesia.

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Discussion Comments

browncoat

@pleonasm - I always thought it would be fine to at least fix dislocated joints, if not fractures, if you were without help for a long time (say in an accident in the wild).

But apparently if you put in a dislocation the wrong way it's possible to catch nerves and other tissue in the joint which then have to be surgically removed. Even the thought of that makes me wince.

It's actually a tough call though, because if you really aren't going to have help for a few days, the longer you leave a fracture or dislocation out of place, the more the tissues will swell up around them and the more difficult it will become to get them back without permanent damage.

pleonasm

@Iluviaporos - I guess the good thing is that if it's not obvious, there probably isn't a huge amount of damage done. A greenstick fracture could conceivably heal itself if she took it easy with that arm and I've had more than one friend fracture something like a toe or a tailbone and basically not have to do anything except let it heal by itself.

If something is obviously fractured, that means there has been a lot of damage and it's time for serious first aid and calling the authorities (or at least rushing the person into hospital).

Also please don't try to fix the fracture yourself. Even doctors will wait until they get x-rays in order to do that.

lluviaporos

A fracture isn't always going to be completely obvious either. My sister likes to tell the story of how she had a greenstick fracture when she was a kid and our parents didn't believe her and just thought it was a nasty bruise. I can't even remember how she did it, but it was playing a sport on the weekend, so there were a lot of other people around and no one thought she had actually fractured the arm, because it didn't look any different at first.

It was only when she was still in a lot of pain the next day that they took her to the emergency room and realized what had happened.

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