Splinting or Bracing
A splint protects a broken bone or other injury. If you have a removable splint, follow your doctor’s instructions and only remove the splint if your doctor says it’s okay.
Most splints can be adjusted. Your doctor will show you how to do this and will tell you when you might need to adjust the splint. A splint is sometimes called a brace. You may also hear it called an immobilizer. An immobilizer, such as a splint or cast, keeps you from moving the injured area.
You may get a splint that’s already factory-made. Or your doctor might make your splint from plaster or fiberglass. Some splints have a built-in air cushion. Air pads are inflated to hold the injured area in place.
Night splints (braces) may be used to treat conditions such as Achilles tendinopathy and plantar fasciitis. The splint holds the foot with the toes pointed up. This position applies a constant, gentle stretch to the plantar fascia. It also stretches the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel, preventing it from contracting. You can wear night splints every night for up to several months. Then you can gradually reduce how often you use them as your symptoms go away.
The brace usually is adjustable, so you and your doctor can adjust it to the proper angle. There are many types of braces. This picture shows one style.
While you use night splints, you can continue other treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), physical therapy, or orthotic devices.
A wrist splint is a brace that looks like a fingerless glove. It stabilizes the wrist in a straight and sometimes slightly bent-back position. A wrist splint can be worn to support the wrist while holding it firm and still (immobilizing it).
A good wrist splint should:
- Be comfortable, washable, durable, and easy to remove.
- Keep the wrist in a neutral position. The wrist is generally in a neutral position when the person is holding a glass of water, with the thumb in line with the forearm.
- Restrict wrist movements while allowing fine hand movements, such as writing or typing.
Splints are available without a prescription from a drugstore or with a prescription from an orthopedic or medical supply house. Physical and occupational therapists can custom-fit splints made from lightweight materials. Health professionals usually do not recommend long-term use of splints (more than 72 hours) because the muscles in the hand or wrist can become weak.
Wearing a splint: When to call
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
- You have increased or severe pain.
- You feel a warm or painful spot under the splint.
- You have problems with your splint. For example:
- The skin under the splint is burning or stinging.
- The splint feels too tight.
- There is a lot of swelling near the splint. (Some swelling is normal.)
- You have a new fever.
- There is drainage or a bad smell coming from the splint.
- Your limb turns cold or changes color.
- You have trouble moving your fingers or toes.
- You have symptoms of a blood clot in your arm or leg (called a deep vein thrombosis). These may include:
- Pain in the arm, calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
- Redness and swelling in the arm, leg, or groin.
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:
- The splint is breaking apart or losing its shape.
- You are not getting better as expected.