What Is a Splint?
A splint is a support device made of hard material that keeps an injured area from moving.
What Are Splints Made of?
A splint can be plastic, metal, plaster, or fiberglass. The material may come pre-made in a particular size or it may be moldable into a custom shape. Splints can be just one piece of material or several.
What Do Splints Do?
Splints hold bones and joints in place so they can heal after a fracture (broken bone), injury, or surgery. Splints also can help with conditions that affect the joints (such as arthritis) or muscles (such as palsies, which are weakness or paralysis of a muscle).
When Do Doctors Use Splints Instead of Casts?
Doctors use splints for broken bones if the area around the injury is swollen. When there's swelling, splints are a better choice than casts because they are easy to loosen, if needed.
Health care providers usually replace a splint with a cast on a broken bone after the swelling goes down. The cast will provide more protection while a broken bone heals.
How Should I Care for the Splint?
- Usually the splint does not need to be adjusted at home. If the splint seems too tight or is uncomfortable or painful, call your health care provider.
- Do not get the splint wet. A wet splint might not support the bone, and also can cause a skin rash or irritation.
- Do not stick objects or pour lotions or powders inside the splint.
- Don't scratch the skin inside the splint.
- Check the skin at the edges of the splint for blisters, sores, or redness.
Bathing With a Splint
If your doctor told you to keep the splint on during bathing, make sure it doesn't get wet.
To keep the splint dry during bathing:
- Baths are better than showers because it is easier to keep the splint dry in a bath.
- Before the bath, cover the splint with a plastic bag. Seal the top with a rubber band.
- Keep it completely out of the water by propping it up on the side of the tub.
- If the splint gets splashed, gently blow air into it from a hair dryer on the cool or fan-only setting. If some of the splint goes under water or gets very wet, call your doctor.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call your doctor if:
- You have pain that gets worse.
- Your fingers or toes are swollen, changing colors, or feel numb.
- The splint feels too tight or too loose.
- The splint is damaged.
What Else Should I Know?
Take care of the splint so it stays in good condition and does not lead to irritation. Soon, you'll be back to doing all your usual activities.