Tips for treating broken bones and other skeletal injuries during a disaster or emergency when you have no access to medical help.
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. The poor nursemaid. I mean, we don’t even have nursemaids anymore, at least not by that name. Maybe it should be called Daddy’s or Mommy’s elbow. How about children’s elbow since they’re the injured ones? Or its medical name, subluxation of the radial head? Okay. Nursemaid’s elbow is easier to say, easier to remember, and, most importantly, puts the blame on someone else. Actually, no one’s to blame. The injury doesn’t come from abuse–usually. It happens while you and the kid are playing or when you get in a hurry. You swing a young child around by the arms. Wheee. Wheee. Waaaa. Or you’re walking, holding hands; you give a little jerk, or the child decides to use your hand for a swing, and suddenly … what happened? […]
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. You’re slipping down a hill and grab a tree limb to stop your fall. You wish you hadn’t because now your shoulder’s hurting like all get-out. You think you dislocated it. You need medical help as soon as possible. The only way to rule out a break is to have X-rays. If there’s no way to get the help, here are some things I’d do to diagnose and treat the shoulder injury. (You can also view these tips in the video above.) […]
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. When I was growing up and heard the sports announcer say some player suffered a shoulder separation, I’d picture the poor athlete with his shoulder actually separated in two. Horrible. How could he ever play again? Now I know it’s usually not quite as bad as it sounds. Okay, it’s never happened to me, but … shoulder (or AC) separations, clavicle fractures, and rotator cuff tears and strains are some of the most common shoulder injuries I see. Fortunately, until you can get to a doctor, the initial treatment for all is similar: […]
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Your camping friend went for firewood and hasn’t come back. You find her at the bottom of a steep ditch. She’s lying there groaning and has a big scrape on her forehead. You’ve read my post on when to suspect a broken neck or back and run back to get your rigid cervical collar. Wait. You left it at home? You better read on, and watch my video to boot. […]
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. A devastating spine injury could happen to anyone. A simple fall or hit on the head can break the spinal bones. But a break doesn’t always cause paralysis—if people react to it correctly. Spinal bones surround and protect the fragile spinal cord. You can feel their prominences, called spinal processes, along your neck and back. Like any bone they can be broken. The difference is, if this fracture moves, it can push against and permanently damage the spinal cord. That’s why it’s essential to learn when to suspect a broken neck or back and what to do about it. […]
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. If you injure your neck or an extremity and can’t get to medical help, you may need to stabilize it with a splint. Materials Needed to Make a Splint SAM Splint or other firm material Elastic bandages Duct tape You can make a splint out of virtually any firm material that fits the area of the body, but there’s a fairly inexpensive tool you can buy and have on hand. It conforms to the injured area, and you can cut it to size. It’s called a SAM Splint. It comes in many lengths and widths to fit fingers, forearms, ankles, knees, etc. If you’re on a budget, buy a few of the longer ones. (If you cut it, curl up the sharp edge so it won’t cut you back.) The thing about SAM Splints is they’re light, and they take up little space if you fold or roll them. Unlike braces, they can fit all sizes. Unlike cast material, they don’t have to harden. You can wrap them around the neck or ankle, or use them on finger, wrist, arm, elbow, foot, leg, or knee injuries. Someone told me the idea came from playing with a gum wrapper. […]
by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. I hope you never see one, but an open fracture, also called a compound fracture, is a broken bone that’s exposed to the air. Proper treatment for an open fracture is essential. Open fractures are easy to diagnose and pretty dramatic if the bone is sticking out of the skin, or there’s a big cut with a broken bone exposed. But it’s not always that simple. What if you broke a bone and there’s a cut nearby? Could the bone have punctured the skin and then gone back in? The answer is yes. And if exposed to bacteria, bones can get infected. Infections in open fractures are very hard to cure. You can lose a limb, or your life. Oral antibiotics often don’t work. So you need try your best to prevent the bone from ever becoming infected. How? […]