Casting and splinting are the commonly rendered non-surgical treatment options for injuries related to the bones and soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments). Casting and splinting help stabilize fractures and reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasm.
The word 'fracture' implies a broken bone. When you break a bone, your doctor first aligns the fractured pieces together in the appropriate position, and then your therapist applies a cast or a splint in order to hold the bones in place while your fracture heals.
Casting is the most effective way to immobilize skeletal fractures. Skeletal fractures normally require around 6 weeks of immobilization. Casts are made of hard setting materials such as plaster or fiberglass (a material made of glass fibers in resins) to provide the best clinical outcome. Fiberglass is more expensive but is lighter in weight, lasts longer, and breathes better than plaster. In addition to these, X-rays can pass through fiberglass better and may help your doctor investigate your fracture better during the healing phase.
Splinting is a highly effective way of immobilizing tissues or joints (hand, wrist, foot, or ankle) when some movement or flexibility is required for optimum healing. Splints can be made of plaster or fiberglass. Splints, also known as half-casts, can be adjusted to accommodate swelling associated with various soft tissue and joint injuries. Splints can also be ready-made or custom-made. Depending on the extent and severity of your fracture/injury, your therapist will fabricate your splint to provide you with the best fit and comfort. Splinting combined with gentle physiotherapy exercises is very important in the treatment of most fractures and many soft tissues and joint injuries.
Your injured area may show swelling in the first 48-72 hours after casting/splinting and may induce some pressure on the injured area. The swelling can be reduced by elevating the injured extremity above the heart level and by applying ice packs.
It is quite normal to feel some pressure under your splint or cast. If you experience increased pain, tightness, numbness, tingling, burning, or swelling you should contact your therapist immediately.