A fracture is a break, usually in a bone. If the broken bone punctures the skin, it is called an open or compound fracture. Fractures commonly happen because of car accidents, falls or sports injuries. Other causes are low bone density and osteoporosis, which cause weakening of the bones. Overuse can cause stress fractures, which are very small cracks in the bone.
Symptoms of a fracture are
- Out-of-place or misshapen limb or joint
- Swelling, bruising or bleeding
- Intense pain
- Numbness and tingling
- Limited mobility or inability to move a limb
You need to get medical care right away for any fracture. You may need to wear a cast or splint. Sometimes you need surgery to put in plates, pins or screws to keep the bone in place.
Don’t move the person except if necessary to avoid further injury. Take these actions immediately while waiting for medical help:
- Stop any bleeding. Apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage, a clean cloth or a clean piece of clothing.
- Immobilize the injured area. Don’t try to realign the bone or push a bone that’s sticking out back in. If you’ve been trained in how to splint and professional help isn’t readily available, apply a splint to the area above and below the fracture sites. Padding the splints can help reduce discomfort.
- Apply ice packs to limit swelling and help relieve pain. Don’t apply ice directly to the skin. Wrap the ice in a towel, piece of cloth or some other material.
- Treat for shock. If the person feels faint or is breathing in short, rapid breaths, lay the person down with the head slightly lower than the trunk and, if possible, elevate the legs.
A splint helps immobilize further movement of the fractured bone and prevents further damage to the nerves and blood vessels. The splint is the primary immobilization technique. A simple splint can be used on a a toe, finger, arm, or leg.
- Remove all jewelry from the victim. Swelling of the area might make these items nearly impossible to remove later.
- Find a stiff object such as a twig, branch, pencil or pen, broomstick, or even rolled magazines or newspapers. Find something to tie the splint with such as surgical tape, a belt, shoestring, or even a torn article of clothing.
- For knees, elbows, fingers, or any joint that moves, tie the splint above and below the fractured area. You can tie a fractured toe or finger to the adjacent toe or finger. Split a fractured leg from above the knee to below the ankle.
- Use an arm sling for arm or shoulder injuries. You can fashion an arm sling from just about any article of clothing, towel, or bandana.
We also offer a free certificate of completion. To receive the certificate you must pass a 50-question test with a score of 70 or higher. Check our Basic First Aid Certificate of Completion page for more information.