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Tips for treating broken bones and other skeletal injuries during a disaster or emergency when you have no access to medical help.

Preventing Gout Flare-ups With or Without Medicine

“The Gout,” by James Gillray, published May 1799. In a 2005 article in London’s “The Independent” newspaper, art critic Tom Lubbock calls this “perhaps the first close-up” and says “this framing reflects how, for the sufferer, the gouty foot looms large and separate, the centre of attention.” Gout was a much talked-about ailment in the 18th century—to people then “what melancholy was to the high Renaissance, or stomach ulcers were to the 1950s,” says an article in the April 14, 2012, issue of “The Lancet.” Alcohol-based “bitters” was one purported remedy. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Several readers have asked me what to do for gout. Do natural remedies help? What’s a “gout foods to avoid list?” No one needs a gout flair-up during a disaster. For those who don’t know, a gout attack usually consists of an extremely painful, red, swollen single joint. The most common is at the base of a big toe, but it can happen to any joint. If someone comes in and tells me they can’t even let a bedsheet touch the joint area because of the pain, I’m pretty sure it’s gout. […]

By | December 13th, 2012|Bones|90 Comments

The Broken Rib Don’t (Formerly a Do)

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? […]

By | November 15th, 2012|Bones|76 Comments

What to Do If You Dislocate Your Kneecap

The kneecap is under that brown tendon. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH A dislocated kneecap is another one of the multiple knee injuries you can get. And you won’t be going far until it’s fixed. It’s painful, most of the time there’s a lot of swelling, and your knee can’t straighten. Obviously you have to get to a doctor as soon as you can to make sure nothing else is injured and to put it back in place. Often, the doctor will also drain some of the blood off that’s accumulated around it (which can ease the pain dramatically). But if getting to a doctor is impossible, here are some things you can try. […]

By | October 9th, 2012|Bones|383 Comments

Osgood-Schlatter—The Tennis Elbow of Children’s Knees

In this photo, the tibial tubercle (the knot below the knee) seems swollen; however, some people have more prominent knot than others anyway. by James Hubbard, MD, MPH Children can get most of the same knee injuries as adults. They can sprain, tear, or break something at any age. But some knee injuries are more common in kids. In fact, one always begins in the growing years. Osgood-Schlatter is technically a disease, but I think of it as an injury—kind of the tennis elbow of children’s knees. In fact, Osgood-Schlatter treatment and tennis elbow treatment are about the same. […]

By | October 2nd, 2012|Bones, Children|11 Comments

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

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. […]

By | September 27th, 2012|Bones|1,363 Comments

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: […]

By | March 22nd, 2012|Bones, Videos|6 Comments

What Injury’s Name Is French for Buttonhole?

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Your hand slips and a fingertip bangs head-on against a board. Your finger’s middle joint bows up like a ready-to-pounce cat’s back. You straighten it with your other hand, but it springs right back into pouncing mode. You are now the probably-not-so-proud owner of a boutonniere deformity. The only chance it has ever to fully function again is to get proper treatment with a specific type of splinting. Boutonniere is French for “buttonhole.” If you can’t remember boutonniere, I Googled “buttonhole injury” and came up with links about boutonniere deformity. Just remember to type “injury” after buttonhole. Otherwise, you come up with a lot of links for … buttonholes. So why would anyone name an injury that makes a finger look like an A-frame ski chalet a “boutonniere deformity”? […]

By | March 20th, 2012|Bones|7 Comments

What to Do for a Droopy Digit

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You hit your finger and now the tip won’t straighten back out. You can straighten it using your other hand, but when you let go, the tip just droops back again like it’s no longer a part of you. That’s why some people call this injury a “drop finger.” Others call it a mallet, hammer, or baseball finger because something like one of those things hits your fingertip while the finger is in an outstretched, pointed position. This involuntarily flexes the fingertip joint and injures the tendon. The same thing happens when the tip of your outstretched finger hits something hard and head-on. Sometimes the tendon can even be pulled from its attachment to the bone. The reason I bring this up is you have to treat a mallet finger just right  if you ever want all your fingers to point in the same direction again. […]

By | March 15th, 2012|Bones|21 Comments

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

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. […]

By | March 13th, 2012|Bones|12 Comments

(Don’t) Pull My Finger: How Jerking a Jammed Joint Makes Things Worse

For a finger jam, you can create a “buddy splint” by taping the jammed finger to the one next to it. I like to tape it with a curve to make the hand easier to use. by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I played a lot of football and basketball growing up. It was fairly common for the ball to hit someone’s finger kind of head-on on the tip while the finger was straight. We called it a jammed finger.  Invariably someone would try to unjam it for us. They’d catch hold and pull with a jerk as hard as they could. I still see it in the office. Grown men and women pulling on their jammed fingers after injuring them on a home project. It’s bound to happen in disasters. The problem is, a jammed finger is usually a sprain. Sometimes there’s a broken bone, or a torn tendon or ligament. Pulling on it is not going to help. It only causes needless pain and can damage the joint further. Even if it’s truly dislocated, pulling the finger with a jerk to unjam it is never the treatment. […]

By | March 8th, 2012|Bones|165 Comments