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Broken and dislocated bones

Your bones are literally the support system of your entire body, and so are built to be very strong. However, even strong bones can break from something as simple as tripping over, falling off a bike or crashing down from climbing a tree.

When a bone breaks, it is called a fracture.

There are 2 main types of fractures:

  • Hairline fracture – a thin break in the bone
  • Break- when a bone has snapped


MP900385798How do I know if a bone is broken?

You wont really know if a bone is broken unless you have an x-ray

However, the following are reasons to seek medical attention:

If you or someone you are with heard a “snap” or grinding noise during the fall

  • The limb doesn’t look straight or is limp
  • It’s painful to move or put any sort of light pressure on the injured area
  • There is swelling, tenderness or a feeling of “pins and needles”
  • The bone has pierced through the skin (an “open” fracture)
  • The extremity of the injured arm or leg is numb or bluish at the tip


Screenshot 2014-06-01 11.36.59When is it an emergency?

First aid for fractures is all about immobilising (limiting movement of) the injured area. Moving broken bones can cause increased pain and bleeding and can damage tissues around the injury.

However a bone breakage may be accompanied by other more serious injuries that require urgent medical attention.

  • If the person is unconscious, not breathing or has no heartbeat, you may need to perform CPR.
  • If there is severe bleeding, control the bleeding before addressing a broken bone.
  • If the person has sustained an injury to the head, neck or back, stabilise the person before to prevent spinal cord injury first.
  • If the person is pale, sweaty, short of breath or confused there is a chance they could be in ‘shock” and medical treatment should be sought as quickly as possible.

In any of the above instances, call for an ambulance immediately.

First aid for fractures

Control external bleeding by pressing firmly on the site of the injury with a clean dressing. If a bone is protruding, only apply pressure to the edges of the wound

Create a splint. Don’t ever try to straighten broken bones. Keep the person and the site of the injury still and then create a splint. This can be made of anything you have around you such as a stick or a newspaper to immobilize below and above the fracture.  If the break is very deformed wait for medical professional such as a paramedic to realign it.

Provide support and comfort with a pillow or something soft under a limb fracture such as a leg or forearm.

  • Elevate the fractured area if possible and apply a cold pack to reduce swelling and pain
  • Use a sling to support an arm or collarbone fracture
  • Do not allow the person to eat or drink until they are seen by a doctor in case they will need surgery
  • In an emergency, call triple zero (000) for an ambulance

Watch this video for more info about treating fractures

Video provided courtesy of Premium Health

What about dislocations?

Dislocations happen when the joint between two bones is injured and the bones are no longer connected properly.  The most common dislocations occur in shoulder, elbow, knee and finger joints.  Symptoms of a dislocation include:

  • inability to move the joint properly
  • awkward angle of one or both connecting bones
  • swelling and severe pain

Similar to fractures, the most important first aid you can give for a dislocation is to immobilize the joint until you can reach medical attention.  If you can apply a splint, do so to prevent further movement and apply ice until medical help arrives.


In summary … basically here’s what to doHumpty_Dumpty

  • If you are concerned that a child in your care shows any of these symptoms after a fall you should splint the suspected broken or dislocated body part and see a doctor immediately.
  • Avoid giving food or drink until you’ve seen the doctor, in case the patient needs an operation. Children might also need pain relief, such as paracetamol, but only with permission of parents or a medical expert.
  • Most fractured limbs need to be splinted or put into a plaster cast. This lets the bones knit back together and mend without being disturbed by too much movement.
  • Many dislocations can be put back in place by a medical professional.  This process is usually quick but very painful, so a patient may be sedated or put to sleep under general anesthesia for the procedure. Do not attempt to fix a dislocation yourself, as this can cause further injury and pain to a patient.