Broken bones

Choose the right healthcare service to get the care you need and to enable the NHS to help the greatest number of people.

GREEN Self-care at home

While waiting for broken bones to heal

Follow the advice of your treating team (Urgent Treatment Centre/hospital), as well as your GP Practice.


Ask a pharmacist:

  • about the best painkiller to take
  • plaster cast covers
  • if concerned and think you need to see a GP

While waiting for broken collar bones to heal

Use pillows to keep upright if sleeping is uncomfortable

Use ice packs and painkillers for pain and swelling

Keep arm in a sling and remove for short periods of time when fracture starts to heal

Move elbow, hand and fingers regularly as soon as comfortable to do so

No contact sports for 10- 12 weeks after injury


Plaster cast care for arms and legs

Keep arm or leg raised on a soft surface, for as long as possible in the first few days

Do not get plaster cast wet

Keep cast uncovered to avoid sweating

Avoid getting anything under the cast

Do not walk on a cast unless told it is safe to do so and have a plaster shoe

Exercise joints not covered by the cast to improve circulation and to avoid problems with the joint once recovered

Do not alter the length or position of the cast

Do not lift anything heavy or drive until the cast has been removed

Use crutches or a sling as advised

Avoid strenuous activities



AMBER It is urgent, but not life threatening

You see a vulnerable/non-verbal person neglecting to use, or acting guarded around the contact and use of, a limb

Recovering from a broken bone and:

  • pain worsens
  • high temperature, feeling hot and shivery
  • leg, foot or toes feel numb or burning
  • leg, foot or toes swollen, blue or white
  • plaster cast or boot is broken or cracked, rubbing, too tight or too loose
  • bad smell or discharge from under a plaster cast or boot
  • persistent itching or a burning, soreness sensation under the cast

Recovering from a broken toe and:

  • pain and swelling haven’t eased within three days
  • hurts to walk after six weeks
  • person has diabetes

Call 111 or visit


Contact the department that put the cast, or a GP Practice, which is less like

RED It is a life-threatening medical emergency

Suspected joint dislocation, break or injury to collarbone, arm, wrist, lower leg, ankle, foot or big toe and:

  • severe pain and affected area cannot be used
  • significant swelling or bruising
  • feels stiff and is difficult to move
  • loss of blood supply to the limb – pulseless, pale, pallor, pins and needles, paralysis of the affected area
  • bone sticking out of the skin
  • break at an odd angle
  • snap or grinding noise as injury happened
  • developing weakness or increased pain in any suspected broken bone area

Go to Emergency Department, Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham


Call 999 for an ambulance if the injury is severe or unable to get there independently

Suspected broken neck or back – keep still and avoid all movement

Call 999 for an ambulance immediately

Immediate first aid for broken bones:

  • remove any jewellery
  • avoid moving the injured area, keep it straight and support it underneath
  • do not realign bones out of place
  • cover open wounds with a sterile dressing, clean cloth or clothing – maintain direct pressure on wound if bleeding
  • if person is pale, cold and sweaty (in shock), lie them down, keep them warm and calm until you can get medical help
  • take paracetamol for pain. Do not take aspirin or anti-inflammatory
  • no food or drink in case surgery is needed