If you get an orthopaedic injury, your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend a brace or splint to treat the injury. While both supportive devices treat orthopaedic injuries and alleviate pain, they aren’t quite the same. In this guide, we’ll explore key things you need to know about braces and splints to help you determine the best treatment option for your injury and help you to understand the difference between brace and splint
What is the Purpose of a Brace or a Splint?
Braces and splints are primarily used to treat orthopaedic injuries, manage chronic conditions, and prevent injuries. Besides serving these purposes, some of their other purposes include:
- Reduce swelling
- Alleviating pain
- Immobilising joints
- Providing Support
Often, braces and splints aren’t used in isolation. They are used together with other treatments such as physiotherapy, medication, or surgery for severe injuries.
What is the Difference Between a Brace and Splint?
While both splints and braces treat musculoskeletal injuries and reduce pain, there are several differences between the two supportive devices.
First, splints are usually worn for a short period. If worn for long periods, splints can aggravate an injury and cause muscle or joint stiffness. Conversely, braces are typically used to support injured limbs for an indefinite period.
Second, splints are usually used to immobilise joints to hasten the healing process and prevent injuries from worsening. On the other hand, braces don’t immobilise joints. They allow for a minimal amount of movement and keep joints steady.
Finally, splints are mainly used to treat fractures because fractures require immobilisation to heal properly. On the other hand, braces are primarily used to treat sprains, strains, or tears because these injuries don’t require immobilisation to heal properly.
What are the Four Types of Splints?
Whether you injure your hand, wrist, ankle, or even thumb, there are splints for most body parts. Here are four types of splints.
Static splints are the most common splint type. They have no moving parts. While static splints typically immobilise the injured joint, they may also provide limited motion. Thumb spica and finger gutter splints are some examples of static splints.
Like static splints, serial static splints have no moving parts. However, unlike static splints, they are usually adjusted periodically to accommodate joint changes during the healing process.
Dynamic splints have moving parts to provide patients with controlled motion. They usually have elastic bands, strips, or cords to assist with joint motion.
As the name implies, static progressive splints aren’t mobile but have dynamic components. However, they don’t allow for controlled motion like dynamic splints. Instead, they only apply a small amount of pressure to the injured area to promote passive motion.
Is a Wrist Brace a Splint?
While the terms wrist brace and splint are often used interchangeably, the two aren’t quite the same. Wrist splints immobilise the wrist to promote faster healing. Additionally, they are often used for short-term treatments.
On the other hand, wrist splints allow for limited joint motion while keeping the wrist steady. Wrist splints are often used for long periods.
How Long Do You Need to Wear a Splint?
Depending on your injury’s severity, you may need to wear a splint for a few days or weeks. For instance, while wrist fractures may take about four to six weeks to heal, severe leg fractures can take up to three months to heal. Consult your doctor or physiotherapist to determine how long you’ll need to wear a splint.
Braces and splints are useful supportive devices used to treat various orthopaedic injuries and relieve pain. If you experience an orthopaedic injury, consult your physiotherapist to determine the best course of action.