A break or crack in a bone is called a fracture. Broken bones can happen after an accident like a fall, or by being hit by an object.

In most cases the damage to the bone will be under the skin, which is called a closed fracture, but sometimes bits of the bone can puncture through the skin to become an open fracture.

Even if you can't see any blood, the break might have caused some internal bleeding.  Internal bleeding can cause shock which is a life-threatening condition.

Three most common signs of a broken bone

  • pain
  • swelling
  • deformity

Sometimes be difficult to tell whether a bone is broken if it isn't displaced.

If you have broken a bone, you may experience the following:

  • you may hear or feel a snap or a grinding noise as the injury happens 
  • there may be swelling, bruising or tenderness around the injured area
  • you may feel pain when you put weight on the injury, touch it, press it, or move it
  • the injured part may look deformed – in severe breaks, the broken bone may be poking through the skin
  • In addition, you may feel faint, dizzy or sick as a result of the shock of breaking a bone.

If the break is small or it's just a crack, you may not feel much pain or even realise that you have broken a bone.


You should seek medical help as soon as possible if you think you've broken a bone. If in any doubt whether it is broken, treat it as a broken bone.

If you think you may have broken your toe or finger, you can come to us at DCU student health centre, however, if you require an x ray we will refer you to a minor injury unit or urgent care centre.


Call 999  / 112 for an ambulance if the injury is severe or you're not able to get to A&E.  Call security (01) 7005999 for assistance and to direct Ambulance to area where injury has taken place.


Patients with a possible spinal or neck injury (e.g. having fallen from a height or having been involved in a road traffic collision) 

  • Don't move the injured person — permanent paralysis and other serious complications may result
  • Keep the person still
  • Place heavy towels on both sides of the neck or hold the head and neck to prevent them from moving until emergency care arrives
  • Provide basic first aid, such as stopping any bleeding and making the person comfortable, without moving the head or neck

While waiting for medical help to arrive

  • If it is an open fracture, cover the wound with a sterile dressing and secure it with a bandage. Apply pressure around the wound to control any bleeding.
  • Protect the injured area by using bandages to secure it to an uninjured part of the body to stop it from moving. For example, fractures on the arm can be secured with a sling, and a leg with a fracture can be tied to the uninjured leg.
  • It's important not to eat or drink anything if you think you've broken a bone, as you may need a general anaesthetic (where you're asleep) to allow doctors to realign it.

More information 

How do I know if I have a broken bone  

Dealing with fractures (broken bones) 

Accidents and First Aid