Splints and Casts

Splints and casts are used to help support and protect many bone and soft tissue injuries. They keep an injured area from moving.

Both splints and casts can help fix broken bones and other injuries or conditions by:

  • Increasing blood supply to the injured area

  • Limiting movement to help decrease pain

  • Keeping the area stable to help prevent further injury

  • Decreasing swelling or muscle spasm

Splints don’t fully enclose an injured area. This makes them ideal to use for many acute or sudden injuries where swelling is likely to occur. This includes acute fractures or sprains. Splints help to ease pain, protect fractures, and keep an injured area from moving before any orthopedic treatment is done.

Casts fully enclose an injured area in either plaster or fiberglass. Because of this, they are better able to keep the injured area still and hold it in place. But casts can also have more problems. 

For the best results, both casts and splints are mainly used only for a short time. That’s because keeping an area still for too long can cause problems such as joint stiffness and long-lasting (chronic) pain. If you are put in a splint or cast, you must be watched closely to be sure you recover correctly.

There are many different kinds of splints and casts. Your healthcare provider will decide which is best for you. This will depend on the area of your body that is being treated. It will also depend on the stage of your injury, as well as how severe and how stable it is. Each type of splint and cast is best suited for certain conditions. There are also different ways of applying splints and casts.

Home care

  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions when using the splint or cast. Always ask when the splint or cast must be worn. Always ask when the splint or cast can be removed. 

  • Check the splint or cast each day, and as needed, for any loose objects.

  • Check the splint or cast for defects such as nicks or tears.

  • Follow the manufacturer's or provider’s instructions on how to clean the splint or cast. It may have fabric areas that can be washed.

  • If the splint or cast has straps, tighten the straps if they get loose. The straps should feel firm and secure, but not too tight. The splint or cast should feel comfortable. Your toes should wiggle freely.

  • The provider may also use an elastic bandage. Follow the provider’s instructions on how to use the elastic bandage. Always ask when to use the elastic bandage with, or without, the splint or cast. Always ask when the elastic bandage needs to be worn. Always ask when the elastic bandage needs to be removed.

  • Check how the injured area is healing. Always check the skin around the injury for irritation or damage caused by the splint or cast. Call your provider if you notice any problems or have any concerns.

  • If you have any questions on how to use the splint or cast, contact your provider.

Follow-up care

Follow up as advised with your healthcare provider. Depending on the injury, you may need to see an orthopedic or bone doctor. You may also need physical therapy to further check or treat your injury or condition.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • You have more pain, swelling, or instability when wearing the splint or cast.

  • Your injured area has skin that changes color (to red, blue, or purple), sores, blisters, infection, or irritation.

  • The injured region feels cool to the touch. Or you have a numb and tingly feeling when wearing the splint or cast.

  • The splint or cast does not fit correctly.

  • You can’t put weight on the injured area when wearing the splint or cast if you are allowed to do so.

  • You have questions about using the splint or cast.

  • The splint or cast gets wet.

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