Safety and first aid

First aid for fractures and dislocations

Signs and symptoms

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • pain at or near the site of the injury
  • difficult or impossible to move normally
  • loss of power
  • deformity or abnormal mobility
  • tenderness
  • swelling
  • discolouration and bruising.

Managing a fracture or dislocation

  • Follow DRSABCD action plan.
  • Control any bleeding and cover any wounds.
  • Check for fractures – open, closed or complicated.
  • Ask patient to remain as still as possible.
  • Immobilise fracture: 
    • use broad bandages (where possible) to prevent movement at joints above and below the fracture
    • support the limb, carefully passing bandages under the natural hollows of the body
    • place a padded splint along the injured limb
    • place padding between the splint and the natural contours of the body and secure firmly
    • for leg fracture, immobilise foot and ankle
    • check that bandages are not too tight (or too loose) every 15 minutes.
  • Watch for signs of circulation loss to hands and feet
  • Ensure an ambulance has been called – triple zero (000).

Notes on first aid

  • Do not attempt to force a fracture or dislocation back into place – this could cause further injuries.
  • It can be difficult for a first aider to tell whether the injury is a fracture, dislocation, sprain or strain. If in doubt, always treat the injury as a fracture.
  • If collarbone is fractured, support arm on injured side in a St John sling.
  • If you suspect the joint is dislocated, rest, elevate and apply ice to the joint.

Where to get help

  • For emergency or life-threatening conditions, visit an emergency department or dial triple zero (000) to call an ambulance.

This information provided by

Logo: St John Ambulance Australia


St John Ambulance Australia

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.