What are hand, wrist and elbow splints and braces?

Splints and braces are medical devices you wear. They're designed to keep a specific joint or area of your body from moving too much. These are common for the hands, wrists and elbows. Those body parts are subject to a number of overuse and misuse injuries. These types of injuries cause pain with movement, so splints and braces help reduce pain during healing.

Splints often help treat bone fractures and sprains. They're similar to casts because they use fiberglass or plaster to make a hard covering. They differ in that they don't wrap all the way around your arm. Splints are for short-term use of just a few weeks or less.

You can wear a brace for an indefinite amount of time. Doctors often use them for treatment of chronic pain or injuries in the hands, wrist and elbows. People also wear them to prevent future injuries when they have jobs or hobbies that require repetitive motions.

What to expect from hand, wrist and elbow splints and braces

There are several reasons why you might experience pain in your hands, wrists or elbows. Your doctor first takes a history and performs some diagnostic tests to determine the source of the pain. This includes taking X-rays. These pictures let your doctor see the bones inside your arm to find your injury.

Once your doctor determines the source of the pain or injury, they fit you with a splint or brace. Braces come in several sizes and are often adjustable. This means that you can tighten it once the swelling goes down.

In addition to wearing the brace, doctors often recommend resting the affecting joint or bone. This reduces pain and gives the injured area an opportunity to heal. Ice packs also help with pain and swelling.

With a splint, your activities are limited. Like casts, splints shouldn't get wet. Because braces are for long-term use, they provide support for many of your normal day-to-day tasks. The amount of time you have to wear either and which activities you must restrict depend on the type and severity of your injury.

Common conditions requiring hand, wrist and elbow splints and braces

Doctors often recommend splints and braces for chronic pain in the hands, wrists and elbows. You use your hands and arms every day for a variety of tasks. That's why it's not uncommon to get an injury in these parts. Misusing them or overusing them in a job, hobby or sport can lead to pain. Additionally, you may need to wear a splint or a brace following surgery in your upper extremity. Common conditions requiring a splint or brace include:

  • Arthritis
  • Tennis elbow
  • Golfer's elbow
  • Strains/sprains
  • Stress fractures
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Cubital tunnel syndrome

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