The most commonly made cast is a short arm cast for immobilising the wrist after a fracture/break (fracture is the medical term for a broken bone). Fibreglass casting material is often preferred by clients as it allows the cast to get wet. In some instances a waterproof fibreglass cast can be applied so that clients can continue with activities such as swimming. Your therapist will instruct you in proper care of your cast when the cast is applied.
If you suspect you have broken your wrist or other bone in the hand or forearm, an x-ray to confirm this is always required before the appropriate intervention can be determined. If fractured, the Accident and Emergency Department at your local hospital or local doctor should reduce the fracture to ensure that it is in the correct alignment or position. Referral for orthopaedic review should also be made at this point of contact if necessary.
An Orthopaedic Surgeon’s opinion may be required if it is serious or complicated. It is common for a back slab or half cast to be applied initially to allow the swelling to settle until a full cast can be applied.
At Central Coast Hand and Upper Limb Therapy our hand therapists are experience in fabricating casts for fingers, hands, wrists and elbows.
How Can I Be Sure My Cast Has Been Fitted Correctly?
A well fitted cast and correctly aligned fracture can have a large impact on the long term outcome of the movement and strength in the hand and wrist and can ensure a good function.
A well fitted cast should:
Allow the fingers and knuckles to bend and straighten fully. If movement of these joints are restricted, recovery of normal movement can take a long time to regain and may require intense therapy.
Leave the thumb free to move and ensure it does not rub at the web space unless the thumb specifically needs to be immobilised.
Be long enough to immobilise fracture adequately.
Not be so tight that the hand or arm is throbbing or the cast is cutting in at the edges.
Not be so loose that the arm or hand can slide within the cast.
There can be serious complications by being in an ill fitting cast for 6-8 weeks. When you have a cast you should consult a hand therapist or return to where the cast was applied if you are concerned about any of the above points and should be aware of the following issues:
You should not be experienceing ongoing high levels of pain
Excessive finger swelling
Persistent pins and needles or numbness
An increase in pain or swelling
Coldness or poor colour of fingers or thumb
Significant skin irritation
If elevating the hand and arm above the heart and exercising the fingers does not relieve symptoms you must report immediately to the therapist, your local doctor or hospital.
If you attend a private clinic then you need to bring all x-rays relevant to the injury and any medical documentation relating to the injury.