A fracture is a break or cracks in the bone. Compound fractures, where a bone fragment penetrates the surface of the skin, are particularly dangerous. Poor positioning of the fractured extremity can obstruct blood flow to the affected limb. A dislocation happens when ligaments near a joint tear, allowing the bone to move from its socket.


Signs that a fracture or dislocation is present include:

  • Pain and/or tenderness,
  • Swelling and/or deformity,
  • Warmth, bruising or redness/discolouration to the injured area,
  • Difficulty using or moving the injured area,
  • Inability to bear weight without experiencing pain,
  • A grating sensation or a “new” sound may be present during motion,
  • The sensation may be lost or reduced below the fracture or dislocation – indicating possible nerve injury.


Consider the following: 

  • If in doubt, treat the injury as a fracture or dislocation,
  • Apply a cold pack to the area of the injury – to decrease swelling and to relieve pain,
  • Administer pain relief medication,
  • Flush open wounds with clean water and cover with a dry dressing,
  • Be aware of the potential to shock – treat as needed.


Consider the following:

  • Splint and immobilize the injured area,
  • Create a splint from whatever is available – consider sticks, a backpack frame, hiking poles,
  • Pad the splint,
  • Check the splint ties frequently – ensure they do not restrict circulation.


The affected extremity should be supported using a sling or other device. Monitor the extremity near the injury, assessing any loss of sensation, decreased temperature and pulse.

NOTE: In an emergency and only if medical attention is unavailable – realigning the fractured or dislocated extremity may restore circulation and save the limb, but may also result in further damage to the tissue, blood vessels, or nerves.

IMPORTANT – The procedures described on this website are not a substitute for medical, first aid or CPR training. Always seek treatment from a trained medical professional whenever possible.



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