The purpose of splints and casts is to support and protect injured bones and soft tissue and reduce pain, swelling and muscle spasms. Here is some general information about casts, proper cast care and what to expect over the next couple of weeks. Your doctor may have very specific instructions about caring for your cast. Always follow your doctor’s instructions.
Swelling is normal for the first 48-72 hours. Swelling may cause the casted arm or leg to feel snug or tight. To reduce swelling:
- Raise the casted arm or leg above heart level by propping it up on pillows or other support. If you have a broken arm, your hand should be higher than your elbow. If you have a broken leg, your foot should be higher than your knee.
- Support the cast on pillows at night while you sleep. If you have a leg cast, raise the foot of the mattress by placing pillows or blankets under the mattress. This keeps the leg elevated during the night.
- Move your fingers or toes frequently the first 72 hours, then several times a day.
Caring for the Cast
It is important to keep the cast in good condition. Follow these steps to help the recovery process.
- Keep your cast dry.
- Keep dirt, sand and powder away from the inside of the cast.
- Do not pull out the padding from the splint or cast. The padding protects your skin.
- If the cast causes an itch, try blowing some cool air from a hair dryer into the cast.
- NEVER pour baby powder, lotion or oils into the cast.
- Do NOT try to reach the itch with a long, pointed object such as a pencil or hanger. These objects can scratch or irritate skin and lead to an infection.
- NO running, jumping, or sports (unless discussed with you provider)
When to Call the Doctor or Nearest Emergency Room
If you have any of these signs and symptoms, contact your doctor’s office immediately.
- Increased pain that is not relieved with rest, elevation, and pain medication.
- Feeling of numbness, tingling, burning or stinging around the area of the cast.
- The cast feels tight, and the tightness does not go away after elevating it for 30 minutes.
- Unable to wiggle or move the fingers or toes.
- Fingers or toes are cold and turn purple or white.
- The cast becomes damaged or cracked.
- A fever over 101.5 degrees F in conjunction with pain and swelling.
When the injury has healed, the cast will be removed with a small specially designed saw. The saw is loud. It has a dull, round blade that vibrates. The vibration is strong enough to break apart the cast but will not hurt your skin. You will feel the vibration, but it will not hurt you. Some children often say it tickles.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing related symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.