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Questions and answers aboutbroken bones

Here are some questions people often ask. If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please feel free to email us at firstaid@redcross.org.uk or use this form.

Q

How can I tell if someone has a broken bone?

Answer
Answer

The person may have bruising, pain and swelling, or be lying in an unnatural position. In severe cases, the limb may be misshapen or have an open wound.

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Q

How do I support a broken bone?

Answer
Answer

Do not move it unnecessarily. If you can, place soft padding (clothing, blankets, etc.) around the limb to align it, but do not force it. Continue to support it until help arrives.

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Q

If a bone looks unnatural or dislocated, should I put it back in place?

Answer
Answer

No, if there is a dislocation or the limb looks broken, the hospital will take care of it. Never attempt to put dislocations back in place; you may cause further damage.

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Q

What do I do if the person won’t let me support the injury?

Answer
Answer

Try to encourage them to support the injury themselves by holding it. Cushions or padding can also be used to support the injury.

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Q

What if everything looks normal and they only have a bruise?

Answer
Answer

It is usually impossible to differentiate between a broken bone and a sprain or strain without an X-ray. If you are in any doubt about the severity of the injury, seek medical advice.

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Q

The person can move their limb or stand on it. Does this mean they probably haven't got a broken a bone?

Answer
Answer

Not necessarily. The only accurate way to diagnose a broken bone is to x-ray it. The person may still have a broken bone, even if they can move their limb. If the injury causes pain or discomfort and symptoms do not improve, seek medical advice.

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