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Splints

What Is a Splint?

A splint is a support device made of hard material that keeps an injured area from moving. It's usually kept in place by an elastic bandage.

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?

  • Do not adjust or remove the splint unless the health care provider told you to.
  • 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.
  • Call your doctor if the splint causes pain or discomfort.

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:

Before the bath, cover the splint with a plastic bag. Keep it completely out of the water by propping it up on the side of the tub. Baths are better than showers because it is easier to keep the splint dry in a bath.

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 wet or damaged.

Looking Ahead

Take care of the splint so it stays in good condition and does not lead to irritation. In a few months, you will be back to doing all your usual activities.

Date reviewed: June 2018