has applied a cast or splint to protect a broken bone or injury. If you have a
removable splint, follow your doctor's instructions and only remove the splint
if he or she says you can. If you have a cast, follow your doctor's
instructions for when you can first put pressure on the cast. Fiberglass casts
dry quickly, but plaster casts may take several days before they are hard
enough to use. Once your cast can be used, don't put excessive weight on it
for long periods of time without rest.
A brace with a built-in air cushion is ready to use right away. It is made of either hard or soft plastic and inflatable air pads. The plastic is fitted around the injured area and often held in place with straps. Then the air pads are inflated to firmly hold the injury in place.
Never cut or modify your
cast or splint or use powder on the skin under the cast. Keep dirt and sand
from getting into the cast.
Your cast or splint may feel tight for a
few days after your surgery or injury. This is usually because of swelling. To
reduce the swelling by raising the injured arm or leg above your heart as often
as possible during the first 72 hours after you get your cast or splint. You
may need to lie down, and it helps to use a pillow to prop up the arm or leg
and to cushion it from hard surfaces.
Put ice in a plastic bag,
wrap it in a towel, and place it over the injured area. If you have a plaster
cast, do not get the cast wet or damp. Ice the area several times a day for
about 15 minutes at a time.
severe pain or increased pain that you think is from
swelling, and your cast or splint feels too tight.
Your hand or
foot feels numb or tingles.
You have a lot of swelling below your
cast or splint.
The skin under your cast or splint is burning or
It's also important to keep up your muscle strength and
tone as much as possible while protecting your injured limb or joint. Your
doctor may want you to tense and relax the muscles protected by the cast or
splint. Check with your doctor or physical therapist for instructions.
Keeping a cast or splint dry
Unless you have a fiberglass cast with a
quick-drying lining or a brace with air pads, do not get your cast wet. If you have a removable splint,
ask your doctor whether it's okay to remove it to bathe. Even though the splint
is removable, your doctor may want you to keep it on as much as possible.
Keep your cast or splint covered with at least two layers of
plastic when showering or taking a bath or when you have any other contact with
water. Moisture can collect under the cast or splint and cause skin irritation
If you have a wound or have had surgery, moisture can
increase the risk of infection.
If you have a fiberglass cast with
a fast-drying lining or a brace with air pads, make sure to rinse it with fresh water after swimming. It
will take about an hour for the fiberglass cast lining to dry.
Itchy skin is common under a cast.
Blowing cool air from a hair dryer or fan into the cast may help.
Never stick anything inside your cast to scratch the
Don't use oils or lotions near your cast. If the skin
becomes red or irritated around the edge of the cast, you may pad the edges
with a soft material or use tape to cover it. Call your doctor if you think you
Complications of wearing a cast
increasing pain may be a symptom of a serious problem.
Compartment syndrome is caused by swelling within the
space or "compartment" that contains muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bones.
Pressure on arteries, veins, and nerves causes severe pain, slows circulation
to the muscles and nerves, and may cause permanent damage to these tissues.
Compartment syndrome is a medical emergency that
requires prompt treatment.
are another problem that may develop over a bony area under the cast or splint,
such as an elbow or ankle. You may get a pressure sore if your cast or splint
is too tight. A warm spot on the cast or splint, pain, drainage, or an odor are
symptoms that a pressure sore or skin infection may be present. Call your
doctor if you think you have a pressure sore or skin infection under your cast
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.