Casting, made either from plaster or fiberglass, is intended to stabilize an extremity/body part following an injury (fracture, sprain, strain). The extent of the casting and how long you will have to wear it will vary greatly from one patient to another. During the early phase of fracture care, you may be required to return a couple times to reinsure acceptable alignment of the fracture.
Splinting, similar to casting, is used in much the same way. Splinting is often used during acute care and after surgery. It does not encompass the extremity all the way around like a cast. Although not as rigged/stable as a cast, it is attended to allow for the accommodation of swelling. During subsequent visits, you may be transitioned into a cast or a removable thermoplastic splint (see below).
The material used in cast/splint application does not dry well when wet. It is recommended that cast/splints be covered and sealed with a plastic bag while showering. Casting material that becomes wet can create significant skin problems including skin breakdown and infection. In certain situations where the casting material is wet in a small, localized and accessible area, a hair dryer set on low heat may dry the material. Otherwise, it is recommend the cast be removed by a provider and a new cast applied as soon as possible.
Thermoplastic material becomes momentarily pliable/soft with the application of heat and is used by Occupational Therapy to fabricate custom splints that are removable and more functional. The use of such splints typically occurs following time spent in either a cast and/or post-operative splint. Cotton padding is not used with this type of splinting. Thermoplastic splinting is often intended to be removed daily for bathing and a home exercise program as instructed by your occupational therapist.
- During the acute phase of recovery, it is recommended that you modify your activity level. The more you do, the more you will promote inflammation, swelling and pain. This will only delay your recovery process and prolong your pain.
- In acute situations where inflammation and swelling are present, you are encouraged to elevate as much as possible. This will promote the reduction of swelling and prevent any additional swelling. Added swelling will only produce more pain and discomfort.
- You may also be encouraged to move some or all your fingers (depending on the situation). Mild active range of motion helps assist in fluid movement preventing joint stiffness, pain and loss of function.
- Returning to work and work-related activity will depend on your current restrictions and your occupation/work environment.
- NO DRIVING while under the influence of narcotic pain medication. Driving is also not recommended while an upper extremity is restricted by casting/splinting.
- NO SMOKING. Smoking interferes with micro circulation thereby affecting wound and fracture healing. Smoking can cause serious complications such as wound infections and fracture nonunion. It is in your best interest to refrain from smoking.