Wilderness: Fractures or Dislocations (cont.)
Fractures or Dislocations Treatment
If medical attention is not readily available, try the following guidelines to treat a fracture or dislocation:
- Apply a cold pack to the area of fracture or dislocation to decrease swelling and to relieve pain.
- Flush open wounds associated with compound fractures with clean, fresh water and cover them with a dry dressing.
- Splint the injured area to keep it from moving. Support a broken limb by using the best material available for a splint, such as sticks, part of a backpack frame, or other stabilizing device. Wrap tape around the splint and the extremity affected. Try to immobilize the joint above and below the fracture. For example, if a forearm is broken, the splint should run from across the wrist to the hand and across the elbow to the upper arm, supporting the forearm without repositioning it.
- Monitor the extremity near the fracture or dislocation, assessing any loss of sensation, decreased temperature, and pulse.
If medical attention is unavailable, realigning the fractured or dislocated extremity may restore circulation and save the limb but may also result in further damage to the tissue, blood vessels, or nerves.
Pain may be relieved with 1-2 tablets of acetaminophen (Tylenol) every 4 hours or 1-2 tablets of ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) every 6-8 hours.
When to Seek Medical Care for Fractures and Dislocations
- Seek medical treatment as soon as possible following a suspected fracture or dislocation.
- A victim may still be able to move a fractured extremity. When in doubt, seek medical attention.
- Seek immediate medical attention if a fracture or dislocation penetrates the skin, if the extremity feels cold, or if pulse or sensation decreases.
- Seek prompt medical attention for elbow, knee, and hip dislocations because nerve damage may occur.
- Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications.
For More Information on Fractures and Dislocations
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Broken Bones & Injuries
Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
"General principles of fracture management: Bone healing and fracture description"
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/3/2016
Scott H Plantz, MD, FAAEM
Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD
Must Read Articles Related to Wilderness: Fractures or Dislocations
An broken ankle (ankle fracture) can be caused by rolling the ankle in or out, twisting the ankle, extreme flexing of the joint, or learn more >>
Broken Shoulder Blade
A broken shoulder blade (fractured scapula) is often a serious injury that requires medical treatment. Causes of a broken shoulder blade include sports injuries...learn more >>
Patient Comments & Reviews
The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Fractures or Dislocations: