What to Do When You Break a Bone

Breaks & Fractures

Oct 5, 2022


Knowing what to do when you break a bone can be the difference between a smooth recovery and making your injury even worse.

Is a broken bone an emergency? The answer is yes, broken bones always require a trip to the emergency room. At Complete Care, we have treated countless broken bones — but just because these injuries are common, does not mean that they aren’t serious. 

Breaking a bone can be a scary and painful experience for everyone involved, which is why we have created a guide on what to do if this happens to you or someone you’re with. The key to knowing what to do when you break a bone is to assess the seriousness of the injury and decide if you can get to an emergency room or if you need to call 911 for help. 

Is the bone broken or fractured?

Before we dive in, you will often hear the terms “broken bone” and “fracture” used interchangeably. The word “fracture” is simply the medical term for a broken bone. If you’re unsure whether or not a break has occurred, here is how to tell if a bone is broken

Your first step is to assess the injured area. Did you hear a snap or a grinding sound during the injury? Is there sharp pain? Is it difficult to move? And is there any bruising, deformity, or tenderness? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, seek emergency care immediately.

If you are able to see pieces of bone protruding from the skin, you should call 911 and not attempt to treat any part of the injury or move. 

Where is the broken bone located?

If the injury involves the head, neck, or back, do not attempt to move the injured person. Call 911 and wait for help. Paramedics are much better equipped and knowledgeable in how to stabilize and transfer a person with such critical injuries. 

Continue reading: Most common bone to break

Heading to the ER: Tips for before and during your visit


Before going to the ER, it is important to take a few steps to make the injured area more comfortable.

  • Carefully cut away or remove any clothing covering the broken bone if possible
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the injury
  • Use a folded towel, or cardboard under an injured limb to make a makeshift splint

It is crucial that you do not eat or drink on the way to the ER in case you will be entering surgery. Eating and drinking could have an effect on anesthesia that is used for surgery.


Once you get to the emergency room, the physician examining your injury must identify which of the many types of fractures you’re dealing with to determine the treatment plan. Injuries including hand and wrist injuries require different care than a broken ankle treatment for example. 

The physician will classify your fracture using several terms: 

  • Pattern or shape
  • Cause (for example a stress fracture)
  • Location
  • Open vs. closed (can you see the bone?)

Can a broken bone heal on its own?

Not all fractures require surgery. In the right conditions, a bone can heal itself, but only a licensed physician should make that call. Further, a bone may still have to be set or aligned with a cast in order to heal on its own.

What happens if you break a bone and don’t treat it?

As we previously stated, a broken bone always requires treatment. Many people are weary of seeking medical attention for different reasons. But trying to “tough it out” with a broken bone is not in your best interest. If a broken bone is not treated, serious and lasting effects could occur including but not limited to:

  • Infection of the bone or marrow
  • Deformity or malunion
  • Damage to muscles and ligaments

Finding emergency care soon after breaking a bone can escalate the healing process, so don’t wait until it’s too late to seek medical help!

Broken bones? Come to Complete Care for 24/7 treatment!

Knowing what to do when you break a bone is important knowledge for everyone to possess. Broken bones are a serious and painful part of life — no matter your age or the way the bone was broken, we’ve seen it all. With locations in Texas and Colorado Springs, come to Complete Care to receive award-winning emergency care for your broken bones and other emergencies. We will get you in, out, and back to life.

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