New in a plaster cast? Advice on how to speed up recovery

Being in a plaster cast

Being in a plaster cast

You’ve broken a bone. Oops. Never a good start to the week. The good news is, if you’ve been put in a plaster cast, chances are it was a clean, non-displaced break, and in a few weeks you will be on your way to recovery, without any need for surgery. Hooray.

Casts can be made out of fibreglass or plaster, which will be shaped to fit your body part by a specialist clinician.

As a ballpark figure, fractures in the upper limb take around 4-6 weeks to heal, and in the lower limb, its around 6-8 weeks. This does not always mean that you will be in your cast for this whole duration. Your consultant will decide on this and the quicker we can get you moving, the better.

Words of wisdom while in your plaster cast:

  • Ensure you can wiggle your fingers/toes. They will check this when they fit it, but swelling can come up later, so keep an eye out for any changes.
  • Try to keep your limb elevated to reduce swelling
  • For lower limb fractures; Stick to your weight-bearing restrictions! Non-weight bearing (zero weight through your foot- keep the limb off the floor at all times). Toe-Touch weight bearing (10% of your weight). Partial weight bearing (up to 50% of your weight). Stick to it until progression to move forward is granted. Your physio will help you with crutch technique.
  • Do not drive with your cast on! You’re not safe… or insured
  • Wear comfortable loose clothing to go over your cast
  • Do not get your cast wet. This will weaken the cast and cause skin irritation underneath in the padding.
  • Check your circulation. Report to your doctor any tingling, or numbness in your fingers/toes. A little test you can do for ‘capillary refill’; Push down on your finger/toe- the skin will blanche white- check that within 3 seconds the skin returns to its normal colour. A delay could mean that your blood flow is sluggish, so report this to your doctor.
  • Keep your joints above and below the cast moving so they don’t get stiff. Your physio will be able to advise you on this
  • Keep an eye on the skin condition around the cast edges. Report any signs of rubbing or infection to your doctor.
  • Smoking and alcohol will delay bony healing. You’ve been warned
  • If you get a fever, if your joint pain suddenly increases, or if you start to feel burning, please inform your doctor immediately.

Once you have your cast removed, the real work will begin. Book in immediately to see your expert physio. We will then work with you on improving your swelling, joint range, power and function until you are back to glowing perfection : )

Author:Annika Williams

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