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Home » Chapter 23: Muscle, Bone and Joint Emergencies

Chapter 23: Muscle, Bone And Joint Emergencies

Defined :

This emergency occurs when a muscle, bone or joint moves in a direction that it is not supposed to go. This movement can lead to broken bones, sprains, fractures and other injuries.

Causes :

Falling, tripping
Motor vehicle accidents
Running, walking, exercise
Sports, physical activity
Sudden impact

Signs and Symptoms :

Bruising and swelling
Bone fragment(s) sticking out
Coldness, numbness
Discoloration (blue)
Inability to use the affected part normally
Snapping or popping sound at time of injury

Common Emergency Example(s) :

Fracture / Broken Bone:

A fracture is a complete break, a chip or a crack in the bone. An open fracture involves an open wound, and is when a bone end tears through the skin. An open fracture is more dangerous and severe. However, a closed fracture is more common.


Dislocation :

A dislocation is the movement of a bone at a joint from its normal position. When the bone is moved out of place, the joint no longer functions. Usually dislocations happen at the shoulder, elbow, wrist, jaw and hip.

Sprain / Strain :

A sprain is the tearing of the ligaments at a joint. Sprains mostly occur at the ankle, knee, wrist and fingers. A strain is the stretching and tearing of a muscle. They usually occur in the neck, back, thigh, or the back of the lower leg.

Use RICE method when dealing with a sprain or strain:


Rest: Do not move or straighten the injury.

Immobilize: Try to stabilize the person in the position he/she was found. Splint or sling the injured part only and use caution if moving the person.

Cold: Indirectly cool the part using ice for up to 20 minutes.

Elevate: Only elevate the part if it does not cause more pain.

First Aid Actions / Treatment :

  • Assess the scene and check for your safety.
  • Get a First Aid kit and wear personal protective equipment.
  • Apply a clean dressing on any open wounds. Don’t move any body part that is deformed or bent (fractured).
  • If person is experiencing:
    • Closed Fracture / Dislocation: keep injured area still; apply a light padding underneath injured area and apply a broad sling; tie the affected part with another limb of the body or another body part to keep it sturdy from movement
    • Sprain / Strain: place a cold pack or a plastic bag filled with water and ice on a towel and then on the injured area (up to 20 minutes); use RICE method detailed above
  • Activate EMS (Call 9-1-1) if the open wound is large.

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