Contrary to popular belief, casts are not only used for patients with fractures. Casts may be used for patients recovering from surgery, patients with healing fractures or those with soft tissue injuries.
While walking or playing sports, our feet may support pressures up to 3 times our body weight. Exposing areas of injury to such forces slows down the healing process and causes injuries to heal poorly or not at all.
A cast does not heal your injuries on its own. Its primary purpose is to provide your body time and space to heal. By providing external support to the injured region of the body and minimising movement, the cast reduces stress on the injury and allows the body’s natural healing to take place more quickly and with fewer complications.
Casts also play a role in pain management. Injuries such as fractures and injured tendons and ligaments can cause great discomfort. Immobilising the foot and restricting movement helps to relieve pain, reduce swelling and muscle spasms.
Casts also help to protect patients. Most casts are hard and can resist impact, preventing further trauma to your injury. They also act as a visual reminder for those you, reminding them to be mindful and more careful around you.
Casts come in many shapes and sizes but are typically made of plaster or fibreglass. Other similar types of devices include –
Application – A stockinette is placed over the area to be casted. This is then covered in a layer of padding, typically cotton, to help protect the skin. The material that is to be used for casting is soaked in water and wrapped tightly around the injury. Once the casting material dries, it will harden into a tough protective layer.
Removal – As the cast has hardened to protect the wound, removing it will require specialised cutting tools such as a cast saw or cast shears. Due to the nature of the tools, there may be minimal risk of discomfort or injury during removal. It is important to remain calm during the procedure and avoid sudden movements, as this can affect the concentration of the person who is removing your cast. Should you feel any heat, pain, or discomfort, let your healthcare provider know immediately.
While wearing a cast, there are several key points to remember.
Swelling caused by your injury may occur in the first 48-72 hours of wearing the cast. This may cause tightness or discomfort. To reduce pain and improve healing, you should try to keep the swelling down.