What is a splint?
A splint is a medical device that immobilizes the injured body part and protects it from further injury. It heals the fractured bones by keeping the broken ends together and in alignment. Splints also reduce pain and swelling.
What is a splint used for?
Splints are applied to treat the following conditions:
- Control of pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome: A condition characterized by numbness and tingling in the hand or arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist.
- Complex bone fracture
- Tendonitis (inflammation of the tissue connecting the muscle and bone)
What is the purpose of splinting?
The main purpose of splinting is to immobilize the joints and bones above and below the fracture site. This is to prevent bone edges from moving and damaging other muscles, vessels or nerves and further complications. Splinting will be effective when the adjacent joints and bones remain immobilized.
When should be splint application avoided?
Splint application should be avoided in the following conditions:
- Open fracture (the broken bone that tears the skin)
- Impending compartment syndrome (a potentially life-threatening condition in which the pressure builds up in the legs, abdomen or arms)
- Neurovascular compromise (malunion of the nerves and blood vessels)
- Active or developing reflex sympathetic dystrophy (chronic arm or leg pain caused due to injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack)
How is a splint applied?
Before applying a fiberglass or plastic splints, the caregiver places cotton padding as a protective layer to the skin. Splints come in either strips or rolls. The caregiver dips the rolls or strips in water and applies it over the padding covering the injured area. Sometimes, the caregiver even covers the joint above and below the broken bone. The splint must fit the shape of the fractured arm or leg to provide adequate support.
The caregiver usually applies a splint to a fresh injury. Once the swelling subsides, the caregiver replaces the splint with a cast. Gradually, as the fracture starts to heal, the caregiver may again replace the cast with a splint.
What to expect after the application of splint?
- Swelling may cause pressure in the splint or cast for the first 48-72 hours.
- You need to elevate your swollen arm or leg for the first 24-72 hours.
- Gentle movements of the swollen arm or leg prevent stiffness.
- You need to apply ice to the splints or cast.
- You need to consult your physician if you experience any of these symptoms around the splints:
- Increased pain
- Numbness or tingliness in your hand or foot
- Burning and stinging
- Excessive swelling below the splint
- Loss of active movement of toes or fingers
How long does a splint stay on?
A splint usually stays on for several days to weeks. A splint is usually preferred in case of swelling. Once the swelling resolves, the doctor will remove the splint and apply a cast. Splints need to be adjusted in the first few days if the injury is swollen.
What else do I need to know about splints?
You need to take good care of the splints for proper healing. You should also remember to:
- Never insert objects inside the splint. They can stick inside or scratch the skin.
- Not allow dirt or sand to get inside the splint.
- Not apply powder or deodorant inside a splint.
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