When Do I Need a Splint?

Accidental injuries are all too common and often lead to the need for medical help. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than 39.5 million people go to their doctor for accidental injuries, and more than 29.4 million end up in the emergency room for treatment. If you get a sprain, dislocation, fracture, or other type of injury, knowing what to do while waiting for help is important to the early healing process. So, what injuries justify using a splint? How will it work to help your body heal?

For fractures, sprains, and other injuries, residents of Bakersfield, California, have quality emergency help to count on. Dr. Yadwinder Kang at 1st Choice Urgent Care has nearly 20 years of experience helping people with injuries and many other emergency needs.

What is a splint?

Splints are a type of support device for injuries. In many ways, splints are similar to casts, but they take less time to apply than casts and are easier to remove. What’s more, splints quickly immobilize an injured body part and can be adjusted to compensate for any swelling or other complications. You can buy pre-made splints over the counter for minor injuries, but for fractures and broken bones, they are custom made by a health care specialist.

Most often, splints (store bought or custom made) are made from fiberglass. With custom splints, the fiberglass is shaped to your injury, and fixed with an elastic bandage or other material. It is applied when wet to allow it to be shaped to the injured area and takes about 15-30 minutes to dry completely. In 20-30 minutes, it is strong enough to support your weight. Cotton or other padding is used to keep your injury as comfortable as possible before applying the fiberglass splint. Once the splint is set, it can stay on for several days or several weeks.

What does it do to help?

Keeping a fractured or broken body part aligned and immobile plays a critical role as the bone fuses and heals. Bone edges from fractures and broken bones that aren’t aligned properly can damage muscles, blood vessels, and nerves, potentially causing even worse complications. Splints help keep injuries stable and allow for limited movement as you heal. 

When should splints be used?

Pre-made splints can treat sprains, tendonitis, and other minor injuries. Swollen injuries often require a splint, especially if they swell up immediately after being injured. Once the swelling is reduced, we may replace your splint with a cast to accommodate a longer healing period. Splints may also be used following a cast to allow for greater movement. It can also be used for dislocations, sprains, carpal tunnel syndrome, complex bone fractures, and tendonitis. 

You should avoid using splints for open fractures, which happen when broken bone tears the skin. If you’re dealing with reflex sympathetic dystrophy (chronic arm or leg pain from surgery, stroke, or heart attack) or neurovascular compromise (improper healing of nerves and blood vessels) you should also avoid using a splint.

The bottom line is: short-term healing of minor injuries takes a splint; long-term immobilization requires a cast.

So, if you have an injury that needs treatment, there are options available. Make an appointment with Dr. Kang and 1st Choice Urgent Care to get a cast, splint or other methods to treat your injuries. 

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