What would you do if you or a loved one broke a bone during a crisis?
Most people might try to hastily set the bone in a panic, with the reasoning that it’s a serious medical situation that can’t afford to wait.
It’s true that a broken bone is a serious problem, but many times waiting is actually the better decision. Setting a broken bone with little to no training comes with significant risk and can pose much more danger to the injured person than the broken bone itself.
On the other hand, sometimes setting the bone is the right choice. I’m going to show you how to fix broken bones in a crisis for those times when you have no other choice.
Risks of Setting Broken Bones
Whenever you handle a damaged part of the body, you risk causing even more injuries. Moving a bone haphazardly can cause severe damage to the surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves.
Setting a bone isn’t as simple as just moving it back into place. When a bone is broken, the surrounding muscles contract to protect the bone. These contracted muscles will put up a lot of resistance when you try to set the bone, making your job more difficult.
On top of all that, manipulating a broken bone is extremely painful. Without proper anesthetic treatment, the injured person you’re trying to help might flinch and accidentally cause even more harm to themselves.
Setting a broken bone during a crisis is risky at best, and potentially fatal at worst. That’s why in most cases, it’s better to temporarily splint the broken bone instead of setting it. Splinting means immobilizing it to prevent further damage until a more qualified person can set it permanently.
Setting a bone isn’t something to take lightly, but there are times when setting it yourself is the best option.
When Setting a Broken Bone is Worth the Risk
The following situations are severe enough that you should attempt to set the bone despite the risk involved.
A broken bone can pinch nearby nerves. If left untreated, this could cause permanent nerve damage.
It takes about one day for irreparable nerve damage to occur, so you can’t afford to wait if you suspect there’s nerve damage.
You can tell if there’s a pinched nerve by checking for feeling in the fingers and toes. If the injured person can’t feel their fingers or toes, they probably have a pinched nerve.
Loss of Circulation
A broken bone could block blood flow to the damaged area, which can cause major damage later.
You can check for loss of circulation in two ways: checking for a pulse past the damaged area, or by visually checking to see if the area past the broken bone is blue.
You have a window of a few hours to set the bone if there’s loss of circulation, so if this is the case, then set it yourself.
Some bones are located next to arteries and can damage those arteries when they break. For example, the femur is located next to a major artery and can cause life threatening bleeding if it isn’t set.
Usually, simply applying pressure is enough to stop most bleeding. However, in a deep area where the femur is located, applying pressure isn’t enough to fully stop the bleeding.
In this case, it’s better to attempt to set the bone.
Sometimes when a bone gets broken, it will pierce the skin. In this case, it’s important to stop the bleeding. Having a first aid kit on hand will make this process much easier and more hygienic.
You Can’t Get Help
If help is several days away, or if it’s simply never going to come at all, then your best bet is to set the bone yourself.
If you wait too long to set it, then it will heal in the wrong position and cause many problems down the line.
How to Set a Broken Bone
Let’s say you’re in a situation where a loved one has a broken bone, and they meet one of the criteria where setting the bone yourself is the best option.
The best way to set a broken bone is through a technique called traction. Traction, in crude terms, means to grab hold of one end of the broken bone and pull on it. This pulling pressure returns the bone to its original position. It sounds easy, but it’s harder to do in practice.
Here are some tips to help the procedure go as smoothly as possible.
Make sure you get a good grip on the end of the limb you’re pulling on. The contracted muscles will fight you, so it’s important that you’re able to firmly hold onto it.
Pull in the same plane as the bone sits on. Don’t pull at an angle or you’ll risk seriously damaging nearby nerves, arteries, and tissues.
Never suddenly jerk the bone. First, you could damage the sensitive tissues surrounding the bone. Second, the contracted muscles will fight against you harder if you suddenly apply lots of pressure. It’s better to pull gradually so the muscles loosen up on their own.
Those are the basics of setting a bone during a crisis. If you or a loved one breaks a bone during a crisis, try to stay calm. Remembering when to set a bone and when not to set it might just save your life.