Dealing With Broken Bones In The Backcountry
Today, we would like to share some tips on how to recognize and treat a broken bone in the outdoors. Accidents may occur at any moment. Therefore, it is important to learn what to do, in case the unexpected occurs. Remember it is important to treat all injuries with care, but if we are facing a broken bone, we need to be especially careful.
Sometimes it is obvious we are dealing with a fracture. If there is obvious deformity of the area or a bone is protruding from the skin, you are definitely in trouble. In most cases, the patient will be in extreme pain. In some cases, people feel or even hear the bone snap. The area will be swollen and possibly discolored, as well as feel tender and extremely painful. The broken limb may swell up and become immobile.
The type of fracture will determine the technique you should apply to treat it. For example, a simple fracture is a bone break that does not pierce the skin. You may hear or feel the bone snap. It is extremely painful and you may not be able to move that limb.
To treat it, splint the injured limb to immobilize it. Splints should be snug, but not so tight that they restrict circulation or cause pain. If it is a broken finger, use a bandage or tape to splint it to an adjacent finger.
If it is a lower-arm injury, fasten the arm to tent stakes or tree limbs to hold it stationary. Create a sling out of bandages or straps to hold it in place against the torso as you walk. Splint an upper-arm injury as you would a lower arm. Tape or bandage the injured arm to the chest to keep it from moving.
Treating Severe Fractures
Certain fractures such as broken long bones or open fractures require gently manipulating the fracture and placing it in its anatomically correct position. You can achieve this by gently grasping the proximal (closest to the center of the body) part of a limb above the fracture site and holding it in the position found. This technique is known as applying traction.
With your free hand grasp the limb firmly below the fracture site and gently apply a steady traction to the distal (farthest from the point of attachment) part of the fracture. Maintain a gentle downward pressure on the limb and slowly and bring the limb into its normal anatomical position.
Treating Long Bones
If it is a broken leg or a long bone, place the fracture in the correct position and immobilize the joint above and the joint below the fracture. If the injured person can be carried, place padding between legs and strap together with whatever you have available; folded triangular bandages, straps from rucksacks or cord.
If there is no other way, but to force the injured patient to walk out, fasten stakes or branches on either side of the damaged leg. Help him keep weight off the injury site. Be patient and go step by step.
If you are able to see a fragment of bone poking through the skin, then you have a compound fracture. This happens when the snap is so violent that the broken bone pierces the skin. Fractures with protruding bone ends should be gently cleansed, but left uncovered before applying traction or splinting. Cut away clothing from the area and stop any blood loss.
The exposed bone ends may pull below the skin surface when traction is applied. This occurrence is normal. If necessary, apply pressure around the wound to prevent bleeding, but be careful not to press directly on the protruding bone. Look for help and take the victim for immediate medical attention.
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