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First Aid Guide: Fractures or Broken Bones

Team AckoJan 18, 2024

One of the most common injuries that people experience is a fracture or a broken bone. Knowing how to provide immediate first aid in such situations can be imperative in preventing further damage and ensuring a speedy recovery. This article covers everything you need to know about first aid for fractures and broken bones. Read on to explore.




Symptoms of a Broken Bone

Here are some signs of fractures/broken bones.

  • Severe pain 

  • Swelling and bruising

  • Difficulty moving the affected limb or joint

  • Deformity or visibly out-of-place bone

  • Tenderness and sensitivity to touch

  • Crackling or grating sensation at the time of injury

  • Numbness or tingling in the area

  • Open wound or visible bone protruding through the skin

  • Discoloration or pale appearance of the skin over the injury site

Causes of a broken bone

Causes of a broken bone can vary depending on different factors. 

  • One common cause is trauma such as a fall. This can result in fractures or breaks. 

  • Other causes include repetitive stress or overuse, which can weaken the bone over time and lead to fractures. 

  • Certain medical conditions, like osteoporosis or bone cancer

  • Also, poor nutrition or vitamin deficiencies can weaken the bones. 

Quick action: First aid for fractures/broken bones

In case of a fracture, it is vital to provide immediate first aid to minimise further damage and alleviate pain. Here are some important steps to follow.

  • Assess the situation: Check for any visible signs of a fracture, such as deformity, swelling, or an abnormal shape of the injured area.

  • Cover any open wounds: If there are any open wounds near the fracture, cover them with a sterile dressing to prevent infection.

  • Immobilise the affected area: Avoid moving or putting pressure on the injured bone. Use splints or any available materials to immobilise the affected area and prevent further injury.

  • Apply cold pack: If there is swelling, apply a cold pack. 

  • Elevate the injured limb: If possible, elevate the injured limb above the heart level to reduce swelling.

  • Provide pain relief: If necessary, administer over-the-counter pain medication or provide comfort measures to help alleviate pain.

  • Keep the person calm: Provide reassurance and keep the person calm to help manage pain and discomfort.

  • Monitor for shock: Fractures can cause shock, so keep an eye out for symptoms such as rapid breathing, pale skin, or a weak pulse.

  • Call for help: If the fracture appears severe, make sure to call emergency services for professional medical assistance.

  • Do not attempt to realign the bone: Leave the realignment to medical professionals to avoid further damage and complications.

Diagnosing fractures and broken bones

When diagnosing fractures and broken bones, medical professionals use a combination of physical examinations, medical imaging, and patient history. They examine the affected area for signs of swelling, deformity, and tenderness. X-rays are commonly used to confirm the presence of a fracture and determine its severity. In some cases, additional imaging tests like CT scans or MRI may be necessary for a more detailed evaluation. Once a fracture is diagnosed, the appropriate treatment plan can be determined, which may include casting, splinting, or surgery, depending on the nature and location of the fracture.

Types of fractures

There are several types of fractures, which are as follows.

  • Simple fractures: This occurs when the bone breaks but does not penetrate the skin. It is a clean break and there is no damage to the surrounding tissues. Treatment usually involves immobilising the affected area with a cast. 

  • Compound fractures: This occurs when the broken bone penetrates through the skin. This type of fracture is more severe and carries a higher risk of infection. It requires immediate medical attention. So cleaning the wound is the first step as it will prevent infection, followed by surgery to align and stabilise the bone. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to reduce the risk of infection.

  • Complete fractures: This occurs when the bone breaks into separate pieces. This type of fracture often requires surgery to realign and stabilise the bone. Its treatment may include the use of internal fixation devices such as screws, plates, or rods to hold the broken pieces together. The goal is to restore the bone's normal alignment and allow for proper healing. 

  • Incomplete fractures: This occurs when the bone cracks or bends but does not completely break. This type of fracture is more common in children due to their softer and more flexible bones. Treatment usually involves immobilisation with a cast or splint until the bone has healed.

Prevention of fractures

Listed below are some tips for preventing fractures and broken bones.

  • Consuming foods high in calcium can help strengthen bones and reduce the risk of fractures.

  • Adequate vitamin D levels are essential for calcium absorption. Spending time outdoors and consuming foods like fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk can help maintain optimal vitamin D levels.

  • Engaging in weight-bearing exercises like resistance training, walking, or dancing can help improve bone density and reduce the chance of fractures.

  • Practising exercises that enhance balance, such as yoga or pilates, can help prevent falls and reduce the risk of fractures.

  • Wearing shoes with good support and traction can prevent slips and falls. 

  • Keep your home free from clutter, ensure good lighting, and use handrails on stairs to prevent accidents and falls that can result in fractures.

  • When participating in sports, it is important to wear proper protective gear. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Listed below are some common queries regarding first aid for fractures/broken bones.


How long does it take for a broken bone to heal?

Generally, it takes around 6-8 weeks for a broken bone to heal. However, more complex fractures or those that require surgery may take longer.

How should I immobilise a broken bone?

To immobilise a broken bone, you can use a cast or splint. A cast is a hard protective covering made of plaster or fibreglass that holds the bone in place while it heals. A splint, on the other hand, is a flexible support that is often used in the initial stages of healing or for temporary immobilisation.

What is the difference between a fracture and a break?

A fracture and a break both refer to a broken bone. The terms fracture and break are often used interchangeably to describe a bone that has been damaged or cracked.

Is surgery always necessary for a broken bone?

No, surgery is not always necessary for a broken bone. It depends on the type and severity of the fracture. 

Can children get fractures too?

Yes, children can get fractures too. In fact, fractures are quite common in children due to their active lifestyles and developing bones. Children's bones are more flexible and resilient than adults', but they can still break.

Is there a specific age group that is more prone to fractures?

There is not a specific age group that is more prone to fractures. Fractures can occur at any age, but certain factors can increase the risk. For example, children and older adults are more susceptible to fractures due to their developing or weakening bones, respectively. Also, individuals with medical conditions such as osteoporosis or certain hormonal imbalances may be more prone to fractures.

Can a broken bone cause long-term complications?

Yes, a broken bone can cause long-term complications. Depending on the location and severity of the break, there may be risks such as impaired growth, deformity, or joint stiffness.

What are the signs of a bone infection after a fracture?

Signs of a bone infection after a fracture may include the following.

  • Persistent pain or discomfort at the fracture site

  • Swelling, redness, or warmth around the area

  • Fever or chills

  • Increased drainage or pus from the wound

  • Fatigue or general malaise


Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.


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