Field Guide to Broken Bones
If you are an avid person on hiking trips or backpacking trips, or just happen to be accident-prone then you probably have had a broken bone. If you fall or are in a crash of some type you could break a bone. Breaking a bone is painful. The body tends to not like it when your bone fractures, and it really doesn’t like it when you compound break your bone. It hurts and can be difficult to deal with.
We need to define the types of breaks that can occur in an accident, (1) Simple and (2) Compound. A simple break is usually characterized as a fracture. A break where the bone is still intact or still in place, but has been broken. A compound break or fracture where the bone is broken and has broken through the skin.
Simple Fractures are dealt with by splitting the bone. This is done to immobilize the limb to prevent further damage to the bone and surrounding tissues. In order to make a splint simply take two pieces of hard straight material and then wrap around the two splints and the damaged bone. You do not want any joint to move or budge so wrap it tightly but not so tight that you lose blood circulation. The general idea is to keep the joints on the affected bone from moving, You do not want unnecessary movement in the affected area. Once you have immobilized your affected area then you can begin to seek proper medical conditions.
If you are not sure if you have fractured your bone or not then you can look for several signs. The first sign that you have fractured your bone is swelling in a particular area. If you have swelling on a particular area slightly touch the swelling area, if you have a very sharp pain in the area you touch then chances are you have broken your bone.
Only an X-ray can definitely state whether or not you have broken a bone, but if you suspect it and you have all the symptoms, swelling, and sharp pain you should treat it as if you have broken a bone.
Compound Fractures do not require an x-ray to confirm if you have broken your bone, because you will see it. Compound fractures are more difficult to deal with because you are going to have to deal with a bleeding wound. Also if you are several days away from a hospital you are going to have to set the bone. This means that you are going to put the bone back together. This should not be attempted unless you are properly trained, and have a day or so to sit. For the bone, you are going to need to splint the bone as well. Once you have set the bone, simply splint it like you would a simple fracture.
Also, know that not only do you have a broken bone to deal with but you are going to also have to deal with the wound. Most compound fracture wounds should not be too serious, you can patch it like you would a normal flesh wound. The pressure to stop bleeding, stitch if necessary, and then clean and bandage the wound.
Unfortunately, not all compound fractures are so easy. The most serious compound fracture is the femur bone in your thigh. A major artery runs through both femur bones in your legs. If a compound fracture occurs in your femur you need to act quickly to ensure that the artery has not been cut. If it has then you run a serious risk of having a fatal injury. Only properly trained medical personnel are ready to handle such a terrible wound. This wound is not common though due to the strength of the femur bone.
Broken Ribs Broken Ribs are a special case of broken bones because ribs cannot be splinted. Ribs are hard to deal with because of the pain of broken ribs. Because you cannot splint ribs there is only one thing you can do to fix ribs and that is to wrap your ribs. Tightly wrap your ribs to where it is almost too tight to breathe, but not quite.
For compound broken ribs you are going to have to dress the wound, set the bone if necessary (sometimes ribs will realign themselves) and of course, wrap your ribs. In case you were wondering duct tape works really well for this.
Broken Vertebrae need to be treated very carefully. Broken vertebrae do not automatically deem paralysis. However, if someone has a suspected broken back do not move them. First, check to see if they can move their fingers and toes, this is a good indicator that paralysis is not present. Also if they cannot feel anything try not to move them. If you are going to need to move them to construct a stretcher to do so, but you need to find somewhere to hold up for about 24 hours if you will not be able to get to a hospital.
Broken vertebrae need special care, being that the vertebrae surround the spinal cord you need to take special care to not cause any more damage to the spine. If the situation arises that someone is suspected to have a damaged spine, especially if the vertebrae in question is middle to upper spine, then you need to contact a hospital and call for medical assistance. One wrong move and that person could become permanently paralyzed.
Broken bones can be dangerous. Whether it is a simple fracture or a compound fracture, taking care of yourself and your teammates can go a long way in emergency situations. Take care not to cause more damage to the bone in question.