What is a shoulder and arm splint or brace?

When you injure your shoulder or arm, you need to keep it still and immobilized. The way to hold the bone in place is to wear a device such as a splint or brace. Sometimes surgery requires a splint or brace so the shoulder or arm can properly heal.

There are many types of splints and braces for shoulders and arms. Fixed splints won't let you flex or extend the immobilized part. Some have hinges at the elbow to allow range of motion. There are some stabilizing splints and braces that you can wear as extra support once you're back to your daily activities. There are other types of splints and braces your doctor can adjust as your healing progresses.

There are differences between a splint and a brace. A splint is a temporary piece of fiberglass or plaster held on your arm with a bandage that's typically used to help reduce swelling. Once the swelling goes down, the doctor puts on a cast, or brace. If you're wearing a brace, your doctor may give you a sling to keep everything in place as you heal.

A splint or brace for a shoulder or arm injury is often part of a rehabilitation plan. The injured shoulder or arm needs to stay at just the right angle and distance from the body to heal. Your doctor knows how to position your shoulder and arm in a splint or brace. This stabilizes your joints and soft tissues. It's a complex process to ensure your injured parts are protected and keep the area immobilized.

What to expect when wearing a splint or brace

You'll likely need to wear your splint or brace at all times to stop you from making certain motions. A brace or splint can also help prevent other people from touching your arm or shoulder. You might be able to remove the device when showering or doing physical therapy exercises. You will most likely need to wear your device when you are sleeping.

Doctors recommend that you wear a light shirt under your splint or brace. Sometimes a device causes a rash if it's put directly on your skin. When relaxing with your splint or brace, it helps to put a pillow under your device for added comfort. You may need help taking your device on and off if it has complicated straps.

Common conditions requiring a splint or brace

A splint or brace can help a number of shoulder and arm conditions heal faster:

  • Dislocation
  • Tennis elbow
  • Bone fracture
  • Tendon injuries
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • Ligament injuries
  • Humerus fractures
  • Sprains and strains
  • Bursitis in shoulder
  • Repetitive use injuries
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

It's extremely important that you understand how to use your splint or brace for your shoulder or arm at home. Consistently wearing your device can make all the difference in healing your shoulder or arm.

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