How to Set a Broken Bone in an Emergency
Obviously, if you have a broken bone, you’ll want to go to a professional to have the bone reset.
However, imagine that you are out hiking or are in an emergency situation, and you break a bone. What can you do to set the bone or at least hold it in place until you can get some help?
There are two types of fractures – open and closed. Open fractures typically have a bone protruding through the skin and includes an open wound. A closed fracture has no open wound.
If you have an open fracture, it is recommended that you manipulate the injury as little as possible. This is due to the fact that you can mess up nerve and blood vessels.
If you notice that there is a lot of swelling, numbness or discoloration below the break, this may be a sign that a major blood vessel has been severed. If this is the case, you’ll need to control the internal bleeding, allow the person to rest and provide them with lots of fluids.
If you feel that you need to quickly place the bone back in position you can use a tree notch to assist you in holding your arm in place while you adjust.
If the broken bone is in a very muscular area (ie. thigh), you’ll need to create a splint until you can get some help. Here is an example of a splint that you can make in the wilderness:
- Get two forked branches or saplings at least 5 centimeters in diameter. Measure one from the patient’s armpit to 20 to 30 centimeters past his unbroken leg. Measure the other from the groin to 20 to 30 centimeters past the unbroken leg. Ensure that both extend an equal distance beyond the end of the leg.
- Pad the two splints. Notch the ends without forks and lash a 20- to 30-centimeter cross member made from a 5-centimeter diameter branch between them.
- Using available material (vines, cloth, rawhide), tie the splint around the upper portion of the body and down the length of the broken leg. Follow the splinting guidelines.
- With available material, fashion a wrap that will extend around the ankle, with the two free ends tied to the cross member.
- Place a 10- by 2.5-centimeter stick in the middle of the free ends of the ankle wrap between the cross member and the foot. Using the stick, twist the material to make the traction easier.
- Continue twisting until the broken leg is as long or slightly longer than the unbroken leg.
- Lash the stick to maintain traction.
Note: Over time you may lose traction because the material weakened. Check the traction periodically. If you must change or repair the splint, maintain the traction manually for a short time. (Courtesy of Wilderness Survival.)
Dislocated bones are when bone joints have been separated. They can be very painful. They can push against nerve and blood vessels causing nerve tenderness and your circulatory system to have trouble.
You can tell if you have a dislocated bone because it will be tender along the joint, have swelling, discoloration, limited range of motion and sometimes deformity.
You can use simple weights to pull the bones back into place. If done properly, the pain should decrease and allow for natural function and circulation.
After you place the bone back in place, you should leave it immobilized for a few days. You can create a simple splint – holding the area in place to ensure proper healing.
Please remember that these techniques can be used in extreme situations and we recommend that you seek out professional assistance if it is available.Updated March 29, 2012