Broken bones usually aren’t life-threatening, but they require immediate medical attention. Prior to bringing someone to the hospital for a suspected broken bone, there are some basic first-aid treatments that can help minimize pain and prevent further injury. 

The most common symptom of a broken bone is intense pain that worsens when the injured person tries to move. If the injured area is numb, swollen, visibly deformed or bleeding heavily, that could also indicate a break. 

If you suspect someone has broken a bone, here are the initial steps you should take.


Trying to move a broken bone can cause pain and further damage. If a person’s suspected broken bone is in one of their limbs, use a splint or sling to minimize movement, both voluntary and involuntary. In cases where no medical equipment is available, you may have to be creative when creating the splint or sling. If the injury has occurred in the person’s neck or back, it is especially important to minimize movement to prevent injury to the spinal cord. 

Stop Bleeding when Necessary

If the injured area is bleeding, you should take precautions to prevent blood loss. Apply pressure to the wound using a clean cloth or piece of clothing. This may be painful when the wound is in close proximity to the break. 

Treat for Shock

Injury can be uncomfortable and alarming. When adrenaline wears off, a person may be in shock. To help, make sure they are resting in a comfortable position and breathing calmly. Reassure them and cover them with a blanket to keep them warm. 

Apply Ice

If possible, apply ice or a cold compress to the injured area. This will minimize swelling and numb some of the pain. However, the ice shouldn’t be applied constantly. Keep it on for 10 minutes at a time.

Use your best judgment to determine if a person can be driven to the hospital or if an ambulance is necessary. If the injury is in their head, neck or back, you should call 911 immediately, then follow the steps above. You should also call 911 if the bone is protruding through the skin or if there is heavy bleeding. 

If the person is unconscious or having trouble breathing, call 911 and relay the situation to your operator. They can walk you through the next steps and send help. To be most efficiently prepared for medical emergencies, it’s helpful to receive your certification in first-aid and CPR. Check your local area for these life saving classes and availability.