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What’s So Bad About Moving a Broken Bone?

Bone Healing: What’s So Bad About Moving a Broken Bone?

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

If you’ve only ever seen a dried-up old bone on a skeleton, you’ve gotten the wrong idea about bones. Bones are very dynamic, and that fact impacts how we treat broken ones.

Last week, I wrote that it’s important to immobilize most fractures. Splint them, and don’t walk on them. (Make a cane or crutches if you have to travel for safety or to get help.) But learning why this immobilization is so important will help you remember to do it.

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When You Don’t Want to Set a Broken Bone (Read: Most of the Time)

When Not to Set a Broken Bone | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

It’s getting hot out there, so let’s cool off a little: It’s winter. You’re at your homestead, miles from the city. A severe ice storm has frozen your area. Large branches have crashed from the weight of the ice. The road is impassible, and there’s no phone service.

You venture outside, just a bit, to survey the damage. Wouldn’t you know it; you slip backward. Your outstretched arm braces your fall. Immediate, intense pain. To your horror, your forearm is now crooked.

You know you won’t be able to get professional help for at least another 24 hours. The pain is excruciating.

So, should you have a family member try to put this displaced fracture back in place?

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How to Set a Broken Bone or Treat a Dislocated Joint

How to Set a Broken Bone or Treat a Dislocated Joint

The X-ray owner, Tim Snell, says this injury didn’t hurt as much as you’d think. “I can’t claim that the process of ‘popping it back in’ didn’t hurt though,” he wrote on Flickr, where he shared the X-ray. “What i thought would be a 5 second ‘click’ ended up taking 3 professionals over 10 minutes of tugging, twisting and pulling to get the little bugger back in place. it’s a good job i was pumped full of laughing gas.” (“Snap My Fingers,” shared via CC BY-ND 2.0.)

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Broken bones and dislocated joints are pretty common injuries, and I have several posts on how to treat them in an emergency. But many people have asked specifically how to “set” a bone, meaning, I presume, how to straighten a broken arm, leg, finger, or toe if it is crooked.

The answer is most of the time, you should do nothing for a crooked bone or displaced joint other than splint it as-is until you can get to a doctor. Trying to move it around is likely to cause more damage.

But there are some injuries when, [… continue reading]

The Inside Scoop on RICE for Injuries

The Inside Scoop on RICE for Injuries | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I love acronyms. They’re such great memory tricks. They saved me on many a test in medical school. And many of them I remember to this day. Needless to say, I use them when I can. RICE is one I use the most.

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Knee Injury: Your Top-4 Questions, Answered

Knee Injury: Your Top-4 Questions, Answered | The Survival Doctor

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

In this post, I’m going to address some of the more frequent questions that are being asked in the comment section of my post “8 Tips for How to Treat a Knee Injury and How to Know If It’s Bad.” The questions seem to center around the following:

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6 Clues Your Ankle is Broken, Not Sprained

The tibia is the larger of your two leg bones. The fibula is the smaller. The tibia bears the most weight, so if it’s broken near your ankle but you mistakenly think you just have a sprain, you can do even more damage just by walking on it.

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

Sometimes it’s not that easy to tell a sprain from a broken ankle.

Just this past year, a seventyish-year-old woman came limping into the clinic where I was working to have her ankle checked. Seemed she had twisted it a couple of weeks before and her husband was going to keep nagging her until she came in.

The X-rays revealed a break. A pretty bad one at that. She couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if she was more upset that she was going to need a cast and crutches or she’d have to acknowledge that her husband was right.

Many people come to the clinic convinced they have a break or just as sure it’s just a sprain. Often they end up being wrong. It’s not so easy for doctors to tell either. Fortunately we have the benefit of X-rays. But what if getting an X-ray is impossible? What can tip you off that it’s a sprain or a broken ankle? And why does it matter?

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The Broken Rib Don’t (Formerly a Do)

The broken rib don’t (formerly a do), by @James Hubbard

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

I heard a pro football player being interviewed on television say that of all the multiple injuries he had suffered through, a broken rib was the most painful. I can see why. It hurts anytime you move your arms, bend—it even hurts to breathe. And it can hurt for weeks. So what can you do to help it heal and relieve the pain?

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8 Tips for How to Treat a Knee Injury and How to Know If It’s Bad

"8 Tips for How to Treat a Knee Injury and How to Know If It's Bad," by @James Hubbard

by James Hubbard, MD, MPH

It’s football season and prime time for knee injuries. But truth be told, I see them all year long—in athletes and the rest of us.

They happen at home, at work, and during any recreation at any age. Sometimes they happen when you’re just standing still and twist the wrong way.

When you hurt your knee, it may be evident you’ve done major damage. Often, though, it’s not so clear. Knee-sprain symptoms can be the same as symptoms from something more serious.

Even we doctors sometimes have a tough time telling a sprain from a tear. One reason is it’s hard to try to move a swollen, painful knee.

So what can you do when no one medical is around? There are a few things, but first, it helps to know the anatomy.

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Video: How to Make a Finger Splint

Video: How to Make a Finger Splint

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

Okay, class. In recent posts, I’ve written about finger injuries and how to treat them. In case you weren’t quite able to grasp :-) how to make the different finger splints, I’ve made you a video. My homemade splints may not be the prettiest, but they should be as effective as any until you can get definitive medical treatment.

Whether the splint’s metal, wood, or the uninjured finger next to the injured one (a buddy splint), the objective is the same: keep the injured area stable until it heals. In the video I show how I’d make a finger splint for the following:

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(Do) Pull My Finger: How to Treat a Dislocated Digit

X-ray of a dislocated finger

X-ray of a dislocated finger.

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

You’re picking up debris and swing your hand around. A finger hits a board, hard. Ouch. You look at your finger and it’s crooked. Not a little. A lot. You can’t move the joint.

Even if you can’t get to a medical facility, there’s no need to panic. Instead, recognize the type of injury and treat accordingly.

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