Urban Survival Day 12 – Set a Bone

Posted: March 5, 2013 in Survival/Self Defense
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Today’s tip is part of the same group as the previous two, Immobilize An Arm Injury and Make A Splint.  Today’s however, focuses more on the bones themselves rather than how to keep them from moving.

12)  Set A Bone

When you break a bone, its always best to seek medical help if available.  But if it isn’t, “setting the bone might just be the only way to save that arm or leg”.  So if you want to know how to set a broken bone, read on.


  • Assess The Break – Not all breaks need “setting”, but some do.  If the bone has broken through the skin, don’t bother setting it, just immobilize it and keep it from moving to avoid further injury.  The book specifically mentions that “transverse, oblique, or impacted” might need setting.
  • Check For Blood Flow – “Press on the skin below the fracture site.  The skin should turn white and then quickly return to pink”.  If you feel like your skin is numb or tingling, or it appears pale or blue, you’ve probably lost circulation.  In order to restore blood flow you need to set the bone.
  • Put It In Place – Carefully pull both side of the break in opposite directions.  This should realign the bone.  Do not try to push the bone into place or you could end up causing more harm than good.


Just talking about this kinda makes my stomach uneasy.  My dad was in a motorcycle accident back in 09′ if I remember correctly.  I was in the hospital when the surgeon came in to examine his leg fracture.  It was awful.  I really don’t know that I would have the strength or willpower to set a bone in real life. Not unless it was a life or death situation.

Have you ever set a bone?  Set your friend’s bone?  Or are you in medical school and setting bones is something you do in your sleep?  Let me know in the comments.

The information contained in this post is a combination of my own opinion and information provided in the book Urban Survival Guide by Rich Johnson.  This is not intended to be used for medical instruction.  If you have an injury and are able, please refer to your doctor before conducting anything like this.  And as always, subscribe so you don’t miss the remaining tips!

  1. […] Urban Survival Day 12 – Set a Bone […]

  2. Derek says:

    This applies to the “Day 11” post on splints, as well. When I was still just a kid, I broke my left femur in a freak accident sort of way. Run down a driveway, trip lightly on the pushed-up sidewalk, collapse with a bowed in leg. Split it at the growth plate above the knee and ended up needing 4 surgeries (3 on the left, 1 on the right “to even things out”) to get everything sorted.

    On the splint:
    Anyway, the EMTs got there, felt around on my leg, and decided to use an adult-sized splint rather than try to wrangle my leg into a more appropriately-sized one. By the time they had arrived, I’d lost feeling in my toes. I told them this, but they still refrained from setting my leg. The over-size splint did what I needed it to: protect my leg from banging into something or flexing on the way to the hospital. It would not have given any support if I needed to walk, however.

    On the bone, and the setting thereof:
    So I ended up with a weird half transverse, half oblique fracture with some sizable “chips” splintered off as well. Were I well away from medical care, and the leg had gone unset, I would have certainly lost it at the knee. On the other hand, there’s a reason the EMTs didn’t set it: the way it broke, the jagged end of my femur could have been (and was indeed) pushing against my femoral. Had they (or I) started screwing around with my leg, it could have very well resulted in death. And as I found out later, it wouldn’t have remained set anyway. That first surgery took 4 hours to get things set and pinned.

    So my point is, just because a fracture needs setting doesn’t mean you or I should set it. I would advise learning more about certain critical anatomy components before setting an awkward fracture above the knees/elbows.

    • nvchad2 says:

      Thanks for sharing your story. It sounds like it was an awful ordeal. I hope everything has healed propery and you made a full recovery. I hope I never need a splint, or to have a bone set, but if I do, I will do everything in my power to have it done by a professional.

      • Derek says:

        Your welcome. I felt that it illustrates the potential dangers of a major fracture. We spend a lot of time considering “battlefield” first aid, and by comparison, we neglect “normal” first aid. Hopefully, if we ever have a need to use these skills, the circumstances will be less violent than treating a GSW, but it’s important to understand that a fracture is rarely minor.

        It was scary for a while, but honestly, the worst part was probably a 12 year old being cooped up with whole-leg casts for nearly two whole summers. Everything is as it should be these days, though I occasionally get some aches that a 20-something doesn’t normally experience.

        Seeking professional service is definitely advised! lol

      • nvchad2 says:

        Haha, will definitely seek professional service when possible. Glad to know things are a bit better now.

  3. […] the victim down, keeping their head low.  ”Treat any outward injuries, such as fractures or […]

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