What Are Braces, Splints and Casts?
These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences:
These are supportive devices made of durable materials and often with Velcro straps or buckles that allow it to be removed. They may be rigid or soft, but generally are designed to immobilize the hand or wrist. Velcro strap wrist braces are a common example. Custom braces (sometimes called orthotics) can be made by a hand therapist if off-the-shelf braces do not fit appropriately.
Splints typically consist of a rigid component that is formed to the hand or wrist (plaster, fiberglass, or metal/foam) that does not completely encircle the hand or wrist so that it can allow for swelling. These are often temporary and wrapped with an elastic bandage to allow for swelling after an injury or surgery. They are not usually designed to be taken on and off.
Casts are usually applied after the swelling from injury or surgery has resolved, and most commonly are made with a molded hard fiberglass tape shell and soft padding underneath. Because they are rigid all the way around the hand and wrist, and not easily removable, cast care instructions are critically important, otherwise cast injuries can occur.
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