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First Aid: Broken Bones

Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD

Broken bones (or fractures) are a common injury, especially after a fall. No matter what part might be broken or how big or small the injury may seem, all broken bones need medical care.

Here's what to do if you or someone you are with might have a broken bone.

Signs & Symptoms of a Broken Bone

A bone might be broken if:

  • You heard a "snap" or a grinding noise during an injury.
  • There's swelling, bruising, or tenderness.
  • The injured part is hard to move or hurts when moving, being touched, or bearing weight.
  • There is a deformity — this means that the body part looks crooked or different than it did before the injury.

What to Do

  • Remove clothing from the injured area. If doing this is very painful, use scissors to cut off the clothing.
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in cloth.
  • Do not attempt to move or reposition the injured limb.
  • Place a simple splint, if you have one, on the broken area. A splint holds the bone still and protects it until you see a doctor. To make a temporary splint, you can use a small board, cardboard, or folded up newspapers and wrap it with an elastic bandage or tape.
  • Get medical care. The injured person should not eat or drink in case surgery is required.

Call 911 Right Away If:

  • You or someone else had a serious injury to the head, neck, or back.
  • A broken bone comes through the skin. While waiting for help:
    • The injured person should lie down.
    • Do not wash the wound or push in any part that's sticking out.

Think Prevention!

Not every fracture can be prevented. But you can make a break less likely. Follow these tips:

  • Wear the safety gear designed for any sport you play.
  • Follow helmet and safety gear rules when you ride a bike, skateboard, scooter, or use any type of skates and roller blades.
  • Always wear a seat belt.
Medically reviewed by: Melanie L. Pitone, MD
Date reviewed: July 2022