What Is a Soft Splint?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

When treating fractures or soft tissue injuries, it is necessary to secure the limb or joint in place to prevent further injury. In emergency situations, a hard splint is likely to be used to completely immobilize the affected limb, though such splints can be uncomfortable. For regular use, however, a soft splint is more likely to be used for additional comfort and to allow some movement of the limb or joint. A soft splint is meant to help stabilize the affected area, but it is not intended to completely immobilize that area; instead, it allows for slight movement that ensures the limb can be used for some daily activities.

Various types of soft splint models exist; some are designed specifically for one limb or joint, while others are adaptable to many parts of the body. Generally, most soft splint models are designed to wrap around the joint or limb completely, and they will secure to themselves using hook and loop straps or other securing straps. The thickness of the splint can vary depending on the intended purpose; some are quite thin so they do not interfere with daily use of the limb or joint, while others can be much thicker to help prevent more movement of the limb.

One of the advantages of using a soft splint is a decrease in healing time. The compression provided by such a splint can promote blood flow to an injury, there by speeding up healing and recovery time. The splint can also provide some pain relief by compressing the injured area. There is danger, however, in using such a splint, and it is advisable to get the guidance of a medical professional before using one. Applying a splint too tightly can restrict blood flow, potentially causing injury or slowing healing. Applying the splint improperly can exacerbate injuries or even cause new ones, not to mention severe discomfort.

In some cases, a soft splint may feature rigid supports as well. Very often these supports are used to prevent lateral movement in a joint, and the supports may be hinged to facilitate easy front to back movement. One example of such a soft splint would be an orthopedic knee brace that wraps around the area above and below the knee; on either side of the knee, rigid supports will prevent lateral movement. These supports will be hinged right around where the knee naturally bends so a user can still walk almost normally.

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