First Aid Care for Bone Injuries

Fact Checked

A fracture is a crack or break in any bone of the body. There are generally two main categories of fractures namely; closed fractures and open fractures. A closed fracture occurs when a bone breaks but does not produce an open wound above the fracture site. An open fracture on the other hand occurs when there is an open wound caused by a splinter or fragment of a bone that protrudes through the skin exposing the bone.

Recognizing Bone Injuries

Usually, it may be difficult to really tell if a bone is broken if rescuers don’t have a clinical eye for assessing the normal anatomical characteristics and landmarks of the major bones in the body. Generally, a visible indicator of a possible fractured bone is the inability to use the injured part within the normal range of motion. The acronym DOTS can be used as an assessment tool in identifying possible fractures.

  • Deformity is obvious and when compared to the uninjured part reveals disproportion of the between the two.
  • Open wound might be a possible sign of an underlying fracture.
  • Tenderness and pain is felt by the victim at the site of injury and any movement results in more pain.
  • Swelling caused by hematoma formation of the fracture bone occurs rapidly after a fracture due to the body’s inflammation response.

Other Indications of a fracture can include:

  • Verbalization of the victim hearing a crack upon impact of injury.
  • A grinding sensation is felt and sometimes even heard when the ends of the fractured bones rub together.

 First aid care for basic fractures

  1. Let the victim support the injured part in the most comfortable position.
  2.  Stabilize the injured area to prevent movement:
  • If emergency medical services will arrive soon, stabilize the injured part with your hands until they arrive with proper equipment.
  • If emergency will be delayed or if you are on route to an emergency facility, stabilize the injured body part with a splint.
  1. For open fractures, do not attempt to push back the protruding bone. Cover wound and exposed bone with a clean dressing.
  2. Apply cold pack or ice to alleviate pain and reduce swelling.
  3. Call for emergency medical services for any large open fractures such as on the thigh or when transporting the victim proves to be difficult which might aggravate the injury.


A splint is a device that is used to help stabilize fractures or injuries affecting the joints. Splinting an injured area significantly helps reduce pain and prevents further damage to underlying muscles, nerves and blood vessels.

Types of Splint

A rigid splint is an inflexible device such as a padded board, a firm cardboard or a commercially available moldable splint which are commonly used by mobile paramedics to fit an extremity. A rigid splint must be long enough to properly stabilize an injured area above and below the fractured site.

A self splint or also known as an anatomical splint is used to stabilize an injured body part using another body part which is adjacent and parallel to the fracture site. An example would be self splinting a broken finger to an adjacent finger, an injured arm to the chest or legs tied to each other.

A soft splint such as rolled blanket or soft pillow is preferably used to help stabilize injuries on the ankles and wrists.


Alton, T. et al (2012). First Aid, CPR and AED Standard 6th Ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning

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