There have been many mentions in articles and forum posts regarding the potential usefulness of 550 paracord in the making of a tourniquet. The goal of this article is simply to point out that making a tourniquet of any kind is not as simple as tying a rope around an extremity, and the implications of doing so could do more damage than good. The authors of this article are not and do not claim to be medical experts.
We’ve all seen the battlefield tourniquets in the movies about tying a bandana around someone’s arm to stop the bleeding of a gunshot wound, allowing them to stay in the fight. It’s all very dramatic and heroic. But its also not very accurate, and is missing the education that should go along with if and when to use a tourniquet. The goal of a tourniquet is to stop excessive bleeding allowing time for help to arrive. The best way to stop any external bleeding is to first try and apply direct pressure to the wound.
If a tourniquet were to be used the amount of pressure necessary to cutoff blood flow is extreme. It often would involve the use of some sort of stick to use as a lever to tighten down the wrap above the wound. This extreme pressure can cause damage to the skin, nerves, muscles, and if done improperly or in the wrong situations can actually increase the bleeding. The amount of pressure needed is proportional to the width of the wrap. In the case of 550 cord the lack of thickness of the paracord can easily cut into the skin and cause additional damage considering the amount of force being applied.
Before ever thinking of attempting to make a tourniquet or using 550 cord in this manner please educate yourself. There are of course stories where tourniquets have helped to save lives, but it is a serious manuver which should be taken seriously and determined if it is the appropriate action based on advanced knowledge.
There are many resources on the web and in medical journals for you to read more about tourniquets.
“Tourniquet use in the civilian prehospital setting” by C Lee, K M Porter and T J Hodgetts is a well written paper discussing tourniquets and their use indepth.