Casts or splints are used to support and protect bones and soft tissues after injury or surgery. A broken bone or severe ankle sprains are two good examples. The immobilization provided by a cast or splint protects the injury, allows healing with proper alignment, and reduces pain, swelling and muscle spasm.
Casts, half- casts or splints are made of plaster or fiberglass. A doctor or assistant individually makes them for each person and injury. Also, custom-made splints are often made by occupational therapists for the hand or physical therapists and certified prosthetists for other body parts such as the trunk or limps. Fiberglass splints are made with Velcro straps and are removable. You may have seen these used for the wrist for carpal tunnel or the foot for ankle sprains.
Both plaster and fiberglass comes in rolls and fiberglass comes in different colors. The rolls are dipped in water and wrapped around the injured part. It is often necessary to apply the cast to the joint above and below the injury. The material will dry and harden in minutes. The cast must fit the shape of the injured part snuggly but comfortably. If a cast is applied to a new injury or immediately after surgery, the cast will be too big once the swelling subsides. Then, a new cast is applied. Padding is used under the cast to protect the skin. Sometimes special padding can be used under fiberglass to allow the cast to get wet in the shower or pool.
Most fractures or severe sprains require 4-6 weeks of casting, sometimes less, sometimes more. Often, once the cast is removed, a removable half-cast or splint is applied. This allows the injured part to be washed and exercised several times a day without the splint and then reapplied.
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers the following recommendations for cast care a and warning signs of cast problems:
Warning signs: if the above recommendations fail to provide a reduction in swelling or pain or if you have the following warning signs, contact you doctor:
Visit your doctor regularly and listen to your body. Keep moving, eat healthy foods, exercise regularly