How to Set a Bone

Face it, if you get injured you never really think its a big deal.  Everybody these days has suffered a broken bone at least once and are not worse for wear.  That’s because we have advanced medical knowledge and antiseptics.  Imagine if you were to break your arm right now and you were the only person you could rely on.  The quicker it heals the better off you are, and if you can get the bone placed properly then you won’t have any lasting effects from the break.

First of all, you need to recognize when a bone is actually broken.  Obviously, if a piece of bone has punctured the skin and is jutting out, its broken; and if the bone is bent in a place it shouldn’t be bent at, it’s broken.  But, minor fractures have a way of hiding themselves (and if you’re like me, you refuse to acknowledge injury and insist on “toughing it out”).  You need to check for bruising, swelling, or sharp tenderness at a very focused point.  Feel the area for any breaks on the bone (this will feel like a crack or the bone will have some “give” to it).  Likely, if a bone is broken you won’t be able to move it much because of the pain.

For non-compound fractures (those where the bone is not protruding from the skin), you need to align the bone to the position it should be in.  To avoid causing more breaks or damage, lightly pull the bone fragment away from the fracture site while realigning it.  Once the bone is properly aligned, put it in a brace or some other contraption to immobilize the bone.  You need to make sure that the bone stays as still as possible to ensure quick and proper healing.  Monitor the break site constantly to ensure that there is no infection or internal bleeding.

In the case of internal bleeding or a compound fracture, the best advice is to seek out a medical professional.  Compound fractures are nasty and typically require surgery in order to save the limb.  There are tendons, ligaments, veins, arteries, and all sorts of other tiny little things that can get caught, pinched, ripped, or otherwise damaged.  But assuming that you have no access to a professional or won’t have access to a professional anytime soon you can do the following.  I must emphasize right now that if you have even the possibility of medical assistance, just leave the fracture, bind the wound and get to that assistance because what I’m about to suggest is the last ditch and is probably going to do more damage.

That being said, in the end-of-the-road, last-ditch, last-man-on-earth scenario, here’s how you deal with a compund fracture.  You need to realign the bone in the proper place.  In this situation, the two bone fragments are essentially sitting next to each other and you need to move one on top of the other.  This means you will be doing the same thing you would do for a simple fracture, but more extreme.  You need to pull the one bone fragment hard enough that you can replace it at the end of the other bone fragment and then line everything up.  If you are doing this yourself it is going to hurt… a LOT (it’s going to hurt anyway, but you need to account for the pain if you do it yourself).  At this point, bind the wound and place the bone in a splint.  Keep it immobile until its healed.  Since this was a compund fracture and you just essentially used a chainsaw where a scalpel was needed, you need to be VERY deligent in checking the fracture site.  You can assume that the area is infected, take a lot of antibiotics to try and combat the infection.  You can assume that you ripped all the tendons, ligaments, veins and arteries to shreds at the fracture site, assume that you won’t ever walk quite right again.  Be especially watchful for bruises from pooling blood (i.e. internal bleeding).  If worse comes to worst (and this might be a more viable option for the beginning), you can always amputate.  Again, let me reiterate: IT IS A BAD IDEA TO TRY TO TREAT A COMPOUND FRACTURE YOURSELF.