Bone Fractures

When a bone is stressed beyond its ability to maintain its normal shape it becomes fractured (broken). Broken bones occur in a great variety of ways and some fractures are much more serious than others. Sometimes there is a dislocation of an adjacent joint.

Bones are living tissue. In order to mend properly the injured bone requires a period of rest, normally five to eight weeks. The most common way to do this is to apply some sort of device to the affected part to keep it from moving while it heals. (Some broken bones will only heal properly if they are surgically stabilized.) Depending on the injury, a splint, cast, brace, sling or combination of these devices may be used to rest and protect the injured part.

Home Care for Bone Fractures & Splints

  • As with most injuries, cool compresses applied to the injured area are helpful in reducing pain and swelling during the first 48 hours. You may apply cold packs directly over splints and dressings. Never apply heat to a fresh injury.

  • Elevate the injured part as much as possible the first few days to reduce swelling.

  • You may need to obtain crutches for a short while. Be sure they fit properly.

  • You may be advised to follow-up in a few of days for placement of a cast or for further assessment of the injury. We will try to assist in making these arrangements, but it is your responsibility to be sure you are checked again and a proper treatment course is followed. (Note: If your follow-up visit is outside the Rockwood Clinic, arrange to pick up your X-rays from the radiology department to take them with you when you see your physician.)

  • If you have been treated with a wrapping or splint that causes your hand or foot to feel tingling, swollen, bluish, painful or irritated, elevate the extremity and please call us. If you are unable to reach us, or your referral physician, for advice, loosen the device by carefully unwrapping it and reapply it to your comfort level.

  • Take medications as directed. Often after the injury has been immobilized the pain level decreases and ibuprofen or acetaminophen will adequately control the discomfort.

  • We will call you if your final X-ray report indicates a need to change your treatment.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • Your immobilization device causes pain or feels too tight.

  • Your splint is soaked with water, unraveled or ineffective.

  • You have difficulty with any aspect of arranging for follow-up care.



Crutches provide a useful temporary support to help maintain balance and mobility when a lower extremity needs to be rested.  Most commonly crutches are used following an injury or surgery.

The keys to successful use of crutches are both a proper fit and following certain simple principles when moving about with them. (If used incorrectly they can lead to additional injury or discomfort, so it is important to spend some time learning these basic rules).

Most people find crutch walking to be almost automatic after a day or two.

The Essentials of Proper Use

  • The correct fit is obtained by lengthening the crutches to within 2 inches of the armpits with the tips on the floor about 6 inches ahead of the feet. The hand grips should be set so that the arms can be fully straightened at the elbow when stepping forward. In the resting position, this is about 20 degrees of flexion at the elbow. The top of the crutch should fit close enough to the armpit to help guide it, but not be used for weight bearing.

  • WALKING: Place both crutches ahead of your feet about a foot or so, straighten
    your arms and bear your weight on the crutches as you lean forward and swing through them. Your good foot should then come down on its heel a little ahead of the crutches.

  • UP STAIRS: Face the stairs squarely and place your good foot onto the first step.
    Shift your weight to the good leg and push up on the leg to bring both crutches and the injured leg up to the step. Repeat this procedure one step at a time.

  • DOWN STAIRS: Face the stairs squarely and lower the crutches to the next step. Lean forward slightly and bring the injured leg forward to the step. Transfer your weight to the crutches and then bring the good leg down to the step. If there is a handrail, use both crutches in the opposite arm and grip the railing on the way down.

  • UP FROM SITTING: Use both crutches in the hand on the side of the injured leg and
    push up and off the chair or bed with the other hand, stepping onto the good leg.

  • DOORWAYS: Allow plenty of room for clearance and block open the door with the tips of one of the crutches.


Cautions Regarding the Use of Crutches and Crutch Walking

  • Always be alert to the area where you are walking Water, ice, rugs,' pets and cords can spell trouble.

  • Do not lean on the crutches with your armpits. This will soon injure sensitive nerves and may cause very uncomfortable arm pains and even weakness or decreased sensation in the arms.

  • Avoid prolonged standing, and do not put more weight on the injured leg than you have been advised.

  • Set your crutches where they will not be likely to fall down and become a hazard to you or someone else.

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