by Casey Ashby, OTR/L
Whether it is for protection, function or prevention, many people with upper extremity injuries at one point require a cast or removable splint. A splint may be worn for a multitude of diagnoses including:
-Thumb or finger arthritis
It is important both medically and functionally that a splint is both effective and comfortable. If a splint has a poor fit and does not completely secure and protect the injured area, it could impact the healing process. Proper healing requires proper protection. A removable splint might be worn after a wrist fracture surgery for 4-6 weeks depending on the healing process. For successful recovery, a splint should provide good fit and stability to the injured area.
Your doctor may order a splint after your surgery or injury. This will be either “custom fabricated” or “prefabricated”. Custom fabricated splints are molded to perfectly fit a person’s hand. These splints are usually made out of thermoplastic material, and require the skill of a therapist to measure, trace, and adjust the splint to accurately fit their patient’s hand.
Prefabricated splints, or “off-the-shelf” splints, require minimal self-adjustments and should be easy to take on and off. These splints are not tailored to a specific patient in mind and generally come in three or four sizes.
Your doctor and therapist will determine which type of splint that is required to protect your repair or injury. When making a custom fabricated splint, your therapist will take into account your unique needs and concerns by providing an accurate and comfortable splint that is effective and easy to wear.
A therapist must take 4 general rules into account when fabricating a custom splint. A well-made custom splint should be:
-Aesthetic (pleasant to look at)
A custom fabricated splint is a product of our therapeutic intervention that will be on display, representing our profession and your individuality. It should meet your exemplary standards. A pre-fabricated splint might not appropriately meet those important standards. Additionally, a custom fabricated splint if fitted to your specific body and can provide superior fit and protection.
Splints that are thoughtfully designed with patient input, carefully constructed, and monitored and modified as needed can make a difference in a person’s life by relieving pain, stabilizing joints, protecting vulnerable tissues, and enabling valued occupations. This in turn promotes physical well-being.
In my experience, comfort is key when it comes to custom splinting. To learn more about how a custom-fabricated splint is made, check out the video here!