Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?

Should you call an ambulance or take care of it yourself?

Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?

You got: It's Broken or Dislocated

I got It's Broken or Dislocated. Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?
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There's a big chance you have a fracture in there. Broken bones aren't easy to diagnose without an x-ray, but some signs and symptoms definitely point toward a break.

Should I Call 911?

Typically, broken bones don't need an ambulance. However, if the fracture is of the femur (the bone in the thigh) or the hip, or if the hand or foot on the injured limb is numb or paralyzed, call 911.

Signs of a Broken Bone

  • Deformity and crepitus are the most likely signs of a fracture
  • Discoloration or bruising
  • Swelling
  • Loss of function

Treatment

Treatment for fractures is all about getting professional help. Until you can get there, elevate the injury and wrap it with a compression bandage.

Source:

National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). Guideline summary: Fractures (non-complex): assessment and management. In: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) [Web site]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2016 Feb 17. 

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment.

Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?

You got: It Could Be Broken

I got It Could Be Broken. Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?
Westend61 / Getty Images

Some signs hint that your bone may be broken, but bones aren't easily diagnosed without an x-ray.

Should I Call 911?

Typically, broken bones don't need an ambulance. However, if the fracture is of the femur (the bone in the thigh) or hip; or if the hand or foot on the injured limb is numb or paralyzed, call 911.

Signs of a Broken Bone

  • Deformity and crepitus are the most likely signs of a fracture.
  • Pain and loss of function are signs of a fracture, but it doesn't work the other way around. Just because you can use an injured arm or leg doesn't mean it's not broken. That's simply not true.

Treatment

It might be broken and that's worth a trip to the hospital for x-rays. You probably don't need an ambulance for this trip.

Source:

National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). Guideline summary: Fractures (non-complex): assessment and management. In: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) [Web site]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2016 Feb 17.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment.

Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?

You got: It Might Not Be Broke But It Could Be a Sprain

I got It Might Not Be Broke But It Could Be a Sprain. Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?
martin-dm / Getty Images

Unlike a fracture, a sprain is an injury of the soft tissue that holds the bones together.

A sprain is not an emergency and doesn't require an ambulance ride to the emergency department.

The trick to getting back to full speed on a sprained joint is to do METH. METH stands for Movement, Elevation, Traction, and Heat:

  • Movement: Keep the sprained joint active.
  • Elevate: Raise the injured extremity above the level of the heart.
  • Traction: Traction typically refers to pull on a joint to relieve tension.
  • Heat: Moist heat should be applied to encourage blood flow and healing.

Source:

National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). Guideline summary: Fractures (non-complex): assessment and management. In: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) [Web site]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2016 Feb 17.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment.

Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?

You got: Walk It Off

I got Walk It Off. Is Your Arm or Leg Bone Broken?
kali9 / Getty Images

It sounds like you might've done something really minor to yourself. It probably doesn't need a trip to the hospital and definitely sounds like it doesn't need an ambulance.

If you are interested in getting a professional assessment, waiting until your primary doc is back in the office tomorrow wouldn't be a bad idea. This is the type of thing an on-call physician is ready to handle.

Source:

National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC). Guideline summary: Fractures (non-complex): assessment and management. In: National Guideline Clearinghouse (NGC) [Web site]. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ); 2016 Feb 17. 

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical consultation, diagnosis or treatment.

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