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What is a broken bone?

A broken bone happens when one of your bones becomes cracked or broken into multiple pieces. It’s also known as a fracture. It can result from a sports injury, accident, or violent trauma.

Broken bones usually aren’t life threatening, but they do require immediate medical care. Learn how to recognize the symptoms of a broken bone, provide first-aid treatment, and get professional help.

What are the symptoms of a broken bone?

A broken bone can cause one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

intense pain in the injured area that gets worse when you move it

numbness in the injured area

bluish color, swelling, or visible deformity in the injured area

bone protruding through the skin

heavy bleeding at the injury site

How can you provide first-aid care for a broken bone?

If you suspect that someone has a broken bone, provide first-aid treatment and help them get professional care:

Stop any bleeding: If they’re bleeding, elevate and apply pressure to the wound using a sterile bandage, a clean cloth, or a clean piece of clothing.

Immobilize the injured area: If you suspect they’ve broken a bone in their neck or back, help them stay as still as possible. If you suspect they’ve broken a bone in one of their limbs, immobilize the area using a splint or sling.

Apply cold to the area: Wrap an ice pack or bag of ice cubes in a piece of cloth and apply it to the injured area for up to 10 minutes at a time.

Treat them for shock: Help them get into a comfortable position, encourage them to rest, and reassure them. Cover them with a blanket or clothing to keep them warm.

Get professional help: Call 911 or help them get to the emergency department for professional care.

If the person doesn’t appear to be breathing, is unconscious, or both, call 911 for medical help and begin CPR. You should also call 911 if:

you suspect they’ve broken a bone in their head, neck, or back

the fractured bone has pushed through their skin

they’re bleeding heavily

Otherwise, help them get to the emergency department by car or other means so a doctor can diagnose their condition and recommend appropriate treatment.

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