Inflicting & Treating Collarbone Fractures for Preppers
In this, the first of two posts on fracture care, we’ll discuss treating collarbone fractures when medical help is not available. And yes… we’ll also show you how to break them!
Collarbone Fractures & The First Orthopedists
As legend goes, Feudal Japan went through several periods of down time, small breaks in what was otherwise 2000 years of constant war. Warriors get antsy in times like these and look for something to do.
To that end, Jiu Jitsu schools would arrange full contact bludgeoning socials. Drop-ins, where one school would “visit” the other in something resembling a melee scene from a bad Kung-Fu movie. The agreement being that the losing school could come back the next day and have their bones set and casted by the winners… free of charge!
The Pain of Clavicle Fractures (Collarbone Fractures)
Collarbone fractures are especially painful. Many schools of martial arts have techniques for breaking them, and most involve bringing an open hand or fist down vertically in the mid-portion of the opponents clavicle. Having seen this done for real, the opponent quickly drops to the ground while screaming – and the show is over. The persons shoulder collapses inward and becomes useless, because the truss separating it from the breastbone has been destroyed.
Why Are Collarbone Fractures so Difficult to Treat?
Collarbone fractures are problematic for two reasons. First, you lose function of that shoulder, and second, they can’t be casted like other bones. Immobilization is the best that can be done. 95% heal on their own and don’t require surgery. But some are so fragmented or displaced – like the one shown above in the middle – that surgical pinning is required. Most clavicle breaks heal quickly and may be aided by placing the person in a figure-of-eight brace, shown above on the far right. The illustration below shows how this dressing attempts to realign the fracture. It is tightened every 3-4 days over the three weeks the person wears it.
It was once thought that this type of bracing helped displaced fractures heal by pulling the shoulders back, so the ends of the bone could re-approximate. Then studies showed identical healing rates in those treated with a simple sling, and the figure-of-eight fell out of favor. Many of us still use it though, because the pain control seems to be better when compared to a conventional sling.
Improvising a Figure-of-Eight Brace
If you are without any supplies you can sometimes use a bed sheet. While it is best to use a 4-6 inch elastic bandage in place of a figure-of-eight brace, in a pinch you can use bed sheets cut into strips. You can even use an entire sheet as one whole bulky dressing. But remember to anchor the strip or elastic bandage to the arm opposite the injury.
Begin by wrapping the good upper arm a few times before making an “8” with the dressing around the person. Have the patient put his hands on his hips to help get the desired tension. Remember that if you are using non-elastic bed sheets, the anchoring wrap around the good arm must be a little loose to prevent constriction and subsequent swelling.
The figure-of-eight can cause its own discomfort and is often cumbersome to adjust. Even after completely healed, most clavicle fractures will produce a noticeable bump under the skin in the area where the bone was broken, regardless of the type of sling used.
Whichever type of brace or sling you decide on, continue immobilization for two to three weeks, or until the majority of the pain is gone. Range-of-motion exercises, with gentle pendulum arm rotation, can be started as soon as pain allows. Progression to active range-of-motion and strengthening exercises should continue over the next four to eight weeks.
In our next post we’ll discuss Aircasts, SAM Splints, finger fractures, and tips for preppers on treating long bone fractures! As a precursor, SAM Splints are some of the most versatile and space saving devices for treating orthopedic injuries. Click the following link or images below to learn more about the SAM Splint kit we most often recommend.
You can use them on Spot too.
The above was adapted from:
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