There are several types of injury that affect extremities (arms and legs): broken bones (fractures), dislocations, sprains and strains. Persistent pain and swelling following an injury warrants a trip to the doctor. All extremity injuries need to be treated as broken bones until an X-ray can be obtained.
Specific broken bones need specific treatment.
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- Stay Safe! The victim was injured somehow. Don't get hurt the same way. Follow universal precautions and wear personal protective equipment if you have it.
- If the foot or hand at the end of the injured extremity is cold or blue, call 911 immediately!
- Do NOT straighten the extremity if it is deformed - keep it in the position found.
- Stabilize the extremity. Use padding to keep it immobile.
- Put ice on the injury. Never put the ice directly on the skin - put it in a bag first. After holding ice on the injury for about 20 minutes, take it off for 20 minutes.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen will help with pain.
- Elevate the extremity to reduce swelling.
- If 911 was not called, seek medical assistance for additional pain relief and further evaluation of the injury. The use of an ambulance is probably not necessary, but ambulances in many areas are capable of providing additional pain relief.
- A little water in the ice bag will help it conform to the shape of the injury.
- Compression wraps may also help reduce swelling, although the evidence is not compelling. Wrap the extremity about 4-6 inches above and below the injury. The wrap should be snug, but loose enough to fit one finger under the elastic bandage.