Splints are solid pieces of material that are used to stabilize a bone or joint to prevent it from becoming injured further. These splints are usually rigid to prevent any movement at all, but flexible splints also exist to help stabilize bones and joints. There are many advantages to flexible splints, one of which is the ability to fold, roll or otherwise reduce in size the splint itself to make storage and transport much easier. Padded aluminum splints are usually rollable, lightweight, and non-absorbent, making them suitable for use in the backcountry or at sporting events.
Sometimes flexible splints are made from neoprene or other flexible material that will not completely restrict movement in a joint. When the splint is wrapped around a joint, that joint will still be able to move, though mobility will be reduced. Using such a device on a joint can help add extra stability by supporting the ligaments and muscles in that joint. Blood flow is also generally increased to the joint when flexible splints are used on it, thereby promoting healing of injuries. For light injuries, the RICE treatment is often used. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation; the splint can be used to provide the compression part of this treatment.
During emergency situations, flexible splints are exceptionally useful for a variety of applications. They can be used to stabilize a broken bone and limit its movement, thereby preventing further damage to the bone. The splints can also be used to wrap a limb to another part of the body; an arm can be compressed against the chest, for example, or one leg can be stabilized against the other. Flexible splints can also be used to help stabilize the head, neck, and shoulders, which is especially important when transporting a victim who may have sustained spinal or head injuries.
Many flexible splints are also non-absorbent, which means bodily fluids will not soak into the fabric or other materials. The splints can therefore be cleaned and re-sterilized for reuse in the future. In worst case scenarios, soft splints can be used as compressor bandages to help stop bleeding. Many types of splints are X-ray translucent, which means they do not need to be removed before taking an X-ray of a potentially broken bone. This helps reduce discomfort for the patient, as well as reduce the risk of further damage to the bone during the X-ray process.