What are shoulder and arm casts?

Shoulder and arm casts, also known as shoulder spicas, are specialized casts. They fit around your torso to support and immobilize your shoulder and arm. In addition to holding the bone in place as it heals, the cast also keeps the muscles from contracting. This helps you avoid moving or straining the injury.

Doctors position casts to hold the joint still above and below the injury. Injuries to the upper arm and shoulder pose a challenge. That's because immobilizing the shoulder is more difficult than the wrist or elbow. To support your shoulder joint and prevent you from moving it, the cast has to extend around your torso.

Casts have cotton or synthetic materials on the inside (closest to your skin). These create a soft, comfortable lining. The outer part of the cast is made from plaster or fiberglass. That makes it solid, sturdy and harder to move.

What to expect from shoulder and arm casts

Shoulder and arm casts are fitted outside your body. There's no need for anesthesia to get a cast. You'll be completely awake when getting your cast. However, if you have surgery on your shoulder, the medical team will fit you with a cast while you're in the operating room following your surgery. You'll still be asleep for this.

When you go in for your appointment, wear loose and baggy clothes that easily fit over the cast. You'll be wearing the cast for several weeks, so it needs to be comfortable. If your cast is uncomfortable, be sure to talk to your doctor. The cast rubbing against your skin can create sores.

Keep the cast dry. When you can, avoid showers and baths. Opt for sponge baths instead. Your doctor will track your progress and remove the cast once your shoulder and/or arm have healed. 

Common conditions requiring shoulder and arm casts

Shoulder and arm casts are often during recovery from major shoulder injuries and surgeries. These include:

  • Humerus fracture
  • Dislocated shoulder
  • Tendon transfer surgery
  • Trauma to ball and socket joint

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