Pain Causes Skin Cuts Bone Breaks

Cuts and bone breaks are among the most common afflictions that cause people pain. Everyone gets a cut occasionally, and most people break a bone at least once in their lives.

The Skin: Cuts and Abrasions

Although supple and somewhat soft, the skin is often sturdy enough to resist tears and cuts. Skin, the largest organ of the body, consists of two main layers:

  • the dermis
  • the epidermis.

The epidermis, or the outer layer, is made up of several layers of skin cells. The dermis, found underneath the epidermis, is made up of elastin (stretchy fibers), which creates suppleness, and collagen (protein fibers), which gives strength.

Skin can be injured by cuts and abrasions:

  • Abrasions affect only the epidermis and will often contain debris. The bony, thin-skinned parts of the body such as elbows and knees are more likely to receive abrasions than the more cushioned areas.
  • Cuts are wounds caused by sharp instruments such as metal or glass and can affect the dermis and the epidermis.

Cuts are wounds caused by sharp instruments such as metal or glass and can affect the dermis and the epidermis.

Pain Management for Cuts

Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil® or Motrin®) provide pain relief for most cuts. Aspirin is not a good choice, as it has an ingredient that prevents the blood from clotting as quickly as it would otherwise.

First-Aid for Abrasions

To treat an abrasion, follow these easy steps:

  1. Wash your hands before treating any wound.
  2. Clean the wound with antiseptic using sterile gauze. If debris is embedded in the wound, hold under running water or use a product such as Savlon®, which is an antiseptic with a surfactant that will bring the dirt to the surface.
  3. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing.

Change the dressing according to the manufacturer’s instructions until healed.

First-Aid for Cuts

Blood vessels can be perforated by wounds caused by knives, glass or other sharp objects. Thus, cuts can lead to substantial blood loss. If an artery is severed, this constitutes a medical emergency. Arteries can pump out blood at an alarming rate. Follow these steps for first-aid treatment for cuts with serious blood loss:

  1. Apply direct pressure to the wound to lessen the blood flow.
  2. If possible, apply a sterile bandage and continue to apply pressure.
  3. Raise the injured area of the body above the heart, if feasible.
  4. If the dressing becomes saturated with blood, do not remove but add more on top.
  5. Call 911 as soon as possible or get to a hospital.

For less serious cuts, simply clean the wound, apply ointment (e.g., Neosporin®) and cover with a clean bandage.

Cuts and Tetanus

Depending upon what causes a wound, some cuts are more likely than others to promote tetanus bacteria growth. Tetanus is most often associated with rust and nails, but tetanus can be contracted from other objects.

If a person gets a cut from a rusty nail or a dirty object, see a doctor to determine if you need a vaccine or a booster. A booster is an update of a vaccine and may be needed if more than five years have elapsed since a person’s last tetanus shot.

Wound Repair

Wounds too large for the body to heal by itself will need either stitches or medical glue:

  • Medical glue is a film dressing that is protective and waterproof and that can be applied to help wounds heal.
  • Stitches are needed for deep cuts. Stitches are applied by a doctor and hold the skin together as it heals.Alert your physician if the wound site swells up, pus begins to ooze or a foul odor is emitted. These are signs that proper healing is not taking place.

Factors Impacting Healing of Cuts

Certain things can affect the healing of cuts, including:

  • Age: Younger skin rejuvenates more quickly than older skin.
  • Diet: Proper nutrition is needed for normal healing.
  • Infection: If no infection occurs, skin heals more promptly.
  • Smoking: Nicotine inhibits proper healing.
  • Stress: Stress on the injury site makes healing more difficult.

Bone Breaks

A broken ankle or broken foot is a common accident that affects many people at some point in their lives. The medical term for a broken bone is bone fracture. The three basic types of fractures are:

  • Closed Fracture: The bone is broken but the skin is unharmed with a closed fracture. This is the least serious type of break.
  • Displaced Fracture: Bones on either side of the fracture are out of alignment in this type of fracture. This fracture will most likely require surgery to repair.
  • Open or Compound Fracture: The bone is broken and the skin is punctured or cut by the broken end of the bone in an open or compound fracture. A compound fracture is a serious injury and requires prompt treatment in order to ward off possible infection.

Symptoms of a Bone Break

There are various symptoms of a broken bone:

  • Bruising
  • cuts, puncture wounds or bone fragments through the skin
  • deformity
  • immediate, throbbing pain
  • inability to walk or put weight on the afflicted body part
  • pain that gets worse with activity
  • swelling
  • tenderness.

Sometimes, a snap is heard at the time of an injury that makes people assume that a bone is broken. This is not always the case, because a snapping sound can also be the sign of a severe sprain. Getting an X-ray can determine which type of injury has occurred.

Pain Management for Bone Breaks

Doctors may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen for a person with a broken bone. This should reduce pain and inflammation.

If intense pain is experienced, the doctor may prescribe a stronger pain medication, such as codeine.

Risk Factors for Broken Ankle or Foot

  • being overweight
  • certain health conditions (such as osteoporosis or neuropathy, which is poor sensation in the feet)
  • high-impact sports
  • living in a cluttered or poorly lit home
  • using faulty sports equipment
  • working in certain high-risk occupations.


Better Health (n.d.). Skin cuts and abrasions. Retrieved August 24, 2007, from the Better Health Web site:

Mayo Clinic (2007). Broken ankle/broken foot. Retrieved August 24, 2007, from the Mayo Clinic Web site: