What Is an Arm Splint?

Erik J.J. Goserud

An arm splint refers to any device that keeps the arm in a desired position. They can be used for many different reasons, but most typically, they keep a bone in the right place for proper healing. This makes them useful primarily in the field of medicine.

An arm splint keeps the arm in place after an injury or surgery to help with healing.
An arm splint keeps the arm in place after an injury or surgery to help with healing.

The arm splint can be made of many different materials. Most materials used to make splints are very hard or difficult to bend. This is necessary because the key function of an arm splint is to immobilize a joint or hold the arm in a particular position. A material that is soft or malleable would probably give in to movement, making the splint useless.

Splints are desired by patients and providers because they are effective and cheap. Casts are similar to splints but are a bit more restrictive. Casts might be used if an injury is severe enough, whereas splints usually address more mild injuries.

Breaks, dislocations, and sprains of the arm call for the arm splint more than any other type of injury. A sprain is damage to the ligaments of a joint. A break refers to severe damage to bone. And, a dislocation describes two joints becoming separate from one another.

The arm splint usually comes in clean form, which means that what you see is what you get. Other products sometimes used by providers, such as casts, may require a hardening phase. Splints are easy to apply because they usually only require placing the limbs in the right position.

Most splints are adjustable to cater to the different types of arms that patients may have. Arm length and width can vary depending on body type. Rather than having to make a custom splint for everyone, adjustable splints are available.

Splinting devices need to be worn for a number of weeks to help immobilize a joint while the body heals itself. The duration that a splint is used may be specific to each injury. One reason why splints are sometimes used rather than casts is that splints offer the ability to be removed. Casts, on the other hand, require special tools and a certain technique for removal.

Although most arm splints are professionally manufactured, sometimes splints can be made from nature. Many outdoorsmen have used rigid pieces of wood or other natural structures to help stabilize joints in times of desperation. This technique is also learned by many wilderness groups and emergency personnel.

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