Unusual Survival Skills - How to Set a Limb with a Protruding Bone

unusual survival skills - types of fracturesPhoto Courtesy of US National Library of Medicine

One of the most important unusual survival skills you have to know is how to set a broken limb. A broken leg or arm can be one of the most common and dangerous injuries that can happen to you in the wilderness, particularly if you’re on your own. It’s even worse if a length of bone is protruding from the injured limb.

If you sustain a broken bone, the most important thing is not to panic, since with the use of your unusual survival skills, you can still make it out alive.

Treating the Wound

The first step is to carefully push the bone into place. This will cause excruciating pain but you will have to bear it, since otherwise, your arm or leg will not stop bleeding and may become infected. 

Once the bone is back in place, clean the wound with water to get rid of dirt. If sterile bandages or gauze are unavailable, improvise a pad out of a clean shirt or towel to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. Once the bleeding has stopped, you can place a splint on the broken appendage to stabilize the bone.

Unusual Survival Skills - Setting a Broken Leg

Unusual Survival Skills - How to Set A Broken BoneEmergency Splint

Materials Needed:

Splint material: Use your imagination. Anything with a good strength to weight ratio will work, such as sticks at least 1 inch in diameter, scavenged dimensional lumber, tent poles, ski poles, rebar, or even part of the metal tubular frame of your backpack.

Soft padding: This can be a piece of clothing, part of your bedroll, or soft undergrowth such as moss or old man’s beard. The padding should be thin enough to allow you to secure the splint tightly, but plush enough to prevent chaffing and additional pain.

Ties: This will secure the splint material to your broken leg. A length of paracord, string or rope would be ideal, but you can also improvise ties by cutting strips of cloth from an extra shirt or in a pinch, scavange vines to tie it all together.

Constructing the Splint

First, wrap the broken leg with the soft padding and secure it snugly with your tie material. Use as much padding as you can to ensure that the leg is comfortable, but not so tight as to cut off circulation.

Next, place two pieces of splinting material on either side of the broken leg and tie them in place, again making sure not to cut off circulation. 

Finally, you’ll need a crutch or walking stick in order to get around. The stick should be strong enough to hold your weight as you will need to take as much weight off your leg as possible. When walking, don’t drag your leg but try swinging it gently forward while it is slightly elevated above the ground.

Unusual Survival Skills - Setting a Broken Arm

You can use the same unusual survival skills to immobilize a broken arm, but tying a splint with only one functioning arm can be difficult, if not impossible. In this case, you will need to create a sling to support the arm.

Materials Needed

Sling: You can make a sling out of any square piece of cloth like a bandana, a shirt, or a blanket. The idea behind the triangular shape is to distribute as much of the weight across a greater surface area. Hanging a broken arm from a sling made from a length of rope can work, but will be far more uncomfortable than if the entire arm is supported.

Wrap: Though optional, immobilizing a broken arm by securing it tightly against your chest will help prevent aggravating the injury and will also help prevent additional pain. This can be made from any of the sling materials mentioned above, paracord, rope, string, vine or best, a belt.

Making the sling

Knot opposite corners of the cloth so that it forms a triangle. Place the sling over your head so the knot rests on the back of your neck. The sling should secure the broken arm against your stomach so that the forearm and upper arm form a 90 degree angle.

If possible, secure a wrap snugly (but not too tightly!) around your torso, to prevent the broken arm from moving during your journey to find help.


Remember, the key to treating a broken limb is immobilization. Use unusual survival skills like these to get out alive.

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