Splint

Splints are a common treatment for lots of different injuries and some health conditions. A healthcare provider will tell you which type of splint you need, how long you’ll need to wear it and when it’s safe to take it off. Wear your splint as often as your provider suggests. You might increase the chances of experiencing another injury (or reinjuring the same body part) if you take the splint off too often or sooner than you should.

Overview

There are four common types of pre-made splints.

What is a splint?

A splint is a medical device that stabilizes a part of your body and holds it in place. Healthcare providers use them to protect and support your body after an injury or to treat certain health conditions. Providers sometimes call splints braces or orthoses.

Which type of splint you’ll need to wear (and how long you’ll have to wear it) depends on the injury’s severity. Your healthcare provider will tell you how long you’ll need a splint and if you’ll need any other treatment. They’ll suggest treatments to help your body heal and regain its usual function.

What do splints treat?

Healthcare providers use splints to treat some of the most common injuries, including:

You might need to wear a splint to treat some health conditions that affect your brain, muscles, or bones and joints, including:

You may need to wear a splint after certain types of orthopaedic surgery.

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Procedure Details

How does a splint work?

A splint holds a part of your body part in one position. You might see this referred to as immobilization. It’s made of a rigid material like metal or plastic. It also usually has a cushion of foam or padded fabric to prevent pressure sores while you’re wearing it.

A splint makes sure you don’t put stress on the injury and that part of your body while you’re healing. While you’re wearing a splint, you might not be able to move or use your injured body part. This will help it heal. It’ll also help reduce pain and inflammation.

What are the types of splints?

Healthcare providers use splints to immobilize parts of your body that need support after an injury, including your:

Your provider will tell you which type of splint you’ll need. They’ll tell you where you can buy one and show you how to use it. Splints are typically pre-made devices that aren’t custom-fitted to your body. Your provider might recommend a custom-fitted splint, but it’s less common.

Providers in the emergency room (ER) may put you in a custom-made fiberglass splint as the first step to treating a bone fracture. You might need a custom splint right after a fracture if your provider needs to stabilize the injury long enough for swelling to go down before they surgically repair your bone or put you in a cast.

The most common types of splints include:

  • Static splints: The splint holds your body part completely still. You won’t be able to move it at all while you’re wearing the splint.
  • Static progressive splints: The splint doesn’t let you move, but it’s adjustable. Your provider may adjust its position over time to stretch your body or change the splint’s position while you heal.
  • Dynamic splints: You can move your splinted body part, but only a specific amount your provider sets. Your provider may adjust how far you can move in your splint (your range of motion) over time.
  • Serial static splints: These hold your body part at the furthest point of its range of motion. Providers use these to make sure tissue around an injury stays stretched and flexible while the injury heals.

You can buy splints over the counter (OTC) at pharmacies or retail stores. They can be adjusted or removed (if your provider says it’s safe).

Risks / Benefits

What are the benefits of wearing a splint?

Splints are easier to apply and remove than other forms of immobilization (like casts). They’re also adjustable, usually with Velcro®, fabric straps or tape. This is especially helpful if you’re experiencing swelling right after an injury.

They’re usually smaller and take up less space than casts, which should make it slightly easier to go through your daily routine. If your provider says it’s safe, you can remove a splint when you’re showering or bathing.

Wear your splint as often as your provider suggests. This will help your injuries heal correctly. It’ll also prevent damage from a heath condition you’re managing.

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What are the risks of wearing a splint?

Splints have very few risks. Some complications can include:

Recovery and Outlook

How long do I have to wear a splint?

How long you’ll need a splint depends on the original injury or health condition. People recovering from an injury usually have to wear a splint for a few weeks, but you might need it for a month or longer. You may need to wear a splint for a long time (maybe the rest of your life) if you have a chronic (long-term) health condition. Your provider will tell you how long you need to wear a splint.

Follow your provider’s instructions about when it’s OK to remove a splint. They’ll tell you which activities are safe to do without the splint on, especially for physical therapy or other exercises they suggest.

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How can I manage symptoms of an injury?

Depending on what caused your injury, you should be able to take over-the-counter pain relievers (like NSAIDs or acetaminophen) to manage symptoms like pain and swelling. Talk to your provider before taking pain relievers for more than 10 days in a row.

Talk to your provider if the pain is getting worse or doesn’t feel better after taking pain relievers.

When to Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Visit your provider if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain.
  • Swelling that’s getting worse.
  • Discoloration or bruising.
  • Tingling.
  • Numbness.
  • You can’t move your fingers or toes.

Additional Details

Can I wear a wrist splint to bed?

You should be able to wear a wrist splint while you’re sleeping. Your healthcare provider will tell you how often to wear a splint while you’re recovering after an injury. They’ll let you know when it’s safe to take the splint off, and when you can resume physical activities.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Wearing a splint is a common treatment for lots of injuries. You may also need one to support your body if you have a health condition that causes weakness or affects your strength.

It might be annoying to have a stiff piece of metal or plastic wrapped around your body that holds your wrist, elbow, knee or ankle in place. But try to remember that the splint is supporting your body and helping it heal.

If you need a splint after an injury, you should be able to resume all your usual activities once your body regains its strength and range of motion.

Ask your healthcare provider all the questions you have about wearing a splint. They’ll tell you which type to buy, how to put it on, when it’s safe to take it off and how long you’ll need to wear it. Let them know if the splint feels extremely uncomfortable or it feels like symptoms from the injury are getting worse or changing.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/15/2023.

Learn more about our editorial process.

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