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First Aid Basics: Broken Bones

Updated on February 22, 2008

First Aid Basics: How To Deal With A Broken Bone

Fractures are broken bones and when they are not treated properly, can lead to total disability or even death. The good thing is that they can usually be treated so that there is a complete recovery. Recovery is usually dependent upon the first aid the victim received before being moved. The basic first aid technique used for managing a broken bone is to immobilize the joints above and below any fracture.

How to Identify a broken bone

Is The Bone Broken?

Assessment of the injury is an essential part of administering first aid. Here are 6 signs of a broken bone.

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Difficulty in moving the injured part.
  • A bone fragment is protruding through the skin.
  • Misalignment or deformity of the injured part.
  • Deep, sharp pain when the victim attempts to move the part.

Remember that there can be internal injuries, so do not move the injured person unless the area is dangerous to stay in.

If you are not sure whether or not a bone is fractured, be sure to treat the injury as a fracture. This will help to avoid further damage to surrounding tissue and possibly promote shock.

Other things to consider as part of your assessment should include:

  • Checking the victim's pulse and breathing - administer CPR and call for medical help if there are irregularities.
  • Watch for signs of shock - keep victim warm, lying down and calm until help arrives.
  • Do not give food or liquids.
  • Do not try to exert pressure on a suspected broken bone or ask the patient to "try it out".
  • If bleeding is present, place a clean cloth on the wound and exert gentle pressure to stop the bleeding.

Types of Fractures

» Closed Fracture: The bone is broken but the overlying skin is not. Even though an injury might be only a dislocation or sprain, it should be treated as a closed fracture for the purposes of applying first aid.

» Open Fracture: The bone is broken as well as the overlying skin. An open fracture can easily become infected - be sure to protect the area from contamination.

Immobilizing a body part that contains a fracture is vital to prevent the razor sharp edges of the bone from moving around and cutting tissue, muscle, blood vessels and nerves. Immobilization also greatly reduces pain and helps to prevent or control shock. If the fracture is closed it also helps to keep the bone from breaking the skin and causing an open wound that can then become contaminated and possibly infected. Immobilization is accomplished by using a splint.

How to Splint a broken bone

How To Position a Splint

Splinting Rules

In the case of an open fracture, the first step is to control bleeding and then apply a dressing and bandage to keep the area free from contaminates.

  • If at all possible, try to apply the splint to the injured part without making any changes in the position of the fractured part. This means that if a joint is not bent, don't try to bend it.
  • Make sure you have enough appropriate splinting material and padding for the area involved.
  • Apply the splint so that the joint above and below the break are immobilized.
  • Use padding between the splint and the injured part to prevent undue pressure and further injury to additional tissues, blood vessels and nerves. This is especially important in areas where the splint comes in contact with any bony areas like the knee, ankle joint, wrist, fingers, elbow or in the crotch or armpit.
  • Bind the splints in place at several placed above and below the fracture, but do not apply the bindings to tightly that it interferes with blood flow. Generally it is good to use 2 bindings above and 2 below with none of them being applied across the break and be sure that the knots are against the splint, not the skin. Use a simple square knot to tie them off.
  • Use a sling to support the arm as appropriate.

The purpose of a splint is to support and rest an injured limb and to prevent a broken bone from breaking the skin. If necessary you can use an uninjured body part as a temporary support.

Materials to Make An Emergency Splint

In a pinch, many everyday items will work for both padding and splinting materials. Here is a list of ideas.

  • Drapes, curtains, clothing or rugs work well as materials to cover the splinting materials.
  • Bed sheets, rags, leafy vegetation, soft clothing, bandages, and moss work well as padding.
  • Belts, a tie, scarf, tape, large handkerchief, strips of cloth, light pants or stockings. Narrow materials like wire, string or cord should not be used to secure the splint in place.
  • Suitable sized pieces of wood, rolled cardboard or newspapers, rugs, sticks or broom handles are all acceptable splinting material.
  • To dress the wound use any clean materials such as handkerchiefs, strips of clothing, curtains or bed sheets. Be sure to place the cleanest material closest to an open wound.
  • The tail of a shirt or coat can be used as a good sling. Strips torn from just about any fabric will do.

The most important thing to remember when helping a fracture victim is that they need to remain calm and keep the area still to prevent further tissue damage. The confidence you demonstrate as their helper will help the injured person cope with the pain and fear they may be feeling. Taking the time to learn these First Aid basics can best help you to help them.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      collective information....learnt many things abt bones.. thankssssssssss......

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      collective information....learnt many things abt bones.. thankssssssssss......

    • profile image


      8 years ago


    • Sun-Girl profile image


      8 years ago from Nigeria

      Intelligent piece of article which sounds so educating and i really enjoyed reading this work.

    • profile image

      DePuy Pinnacle Recall 

      8 years ago

      Great first aid tips! In dealing with fractures or breaks, I remember these 4 letters: R-I-C-E. (R)est the affected area, apply (I)ce or cold compress, (C)ompress the area by splinting, and lastly, (E)levate the injured limb.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      very useful information

      thanks a lot!!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      hey this was great information i really appriciate it i was doing a report with some friends in the 7th grade and i really needed to hurry so this was a gift

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      hey raquel santiago,

      i hope your command of English gets better.

    • foodstorage profile image


      11 years ago from Utah

      Great info. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      raquel santiago 

      11 years ago

      very good site!!

      i am a student and this one help me much to do my research..

      and i actiolly learned a lot!

    • Blaine561 profile image


      11 years ago from Montreal

      Needed information, thanks for displaying it so nicely.


    • sharkarama profile image


      11 years ago

      Great hub page... well done

    • Texas-Tutor profile image


      11 years ago from Bryan, Texas

      Good site with good information, well illustrated, and well written.

      Handy information to know, keep up the good work.

    • profile image

      Sel Patterson 

      11 years ago

      Very informative, today I learnt things about bones that I never knew before.



    • kerbyninja profile image


      12 years ago from Planet Earth

      Great now I can have broken bones safely! [end of joke]


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