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Splinting: wrist splinting and hand splinting

Our specialist team of hand therapists are highly trained to make custom-made splints for many hand and wrist conditions

Elder woman with hand and wrist splint
Hand and wrist splinting is a method of fully or partially immobilising your hand and wrist to allow healing, and protect and support your hand, wrist and the surrounding tissues. It works by keeping your hand and wrist in the correct position and supporting your hand and wrist, either at rest or during activity.

There are two main types of hand and wrist splints:

  • Resting splints — are worn while you are resting your hand and wrist
  • Working splints — are worn during activity

Resting splints

A resting splint keeps your hand and wrist in the correct position while you are resting, such as at night. It can help to reduce swelling and pain.

You may find wearing a resting splint helpful if you:

  • Have hand or wrist pain during the night that disturbs your sleep
  • Have pain occasionally during the day
  • Are having a flare-up of arthritis

Working splints

Working splints support your wrist and hand during activities that might otherwise be painful or uncomfortable. They work by reducing pain and can help increase your grip strength, making certain tasks easier. Some types of working splint have a metal bar inserted on the palm side of your wrist to keep your wrist in a stable and comfortable position.

You may find wearing a working splint helpful if:

  • Your wrist or thumb are swollen
  • You have pain or discomfort in your hand or wrist while performing certain tasks or activities
  • You have weakness in your hand and find it harder to grip things firmly

Types of hand and wrist splints

There are several types of wrist splints and which one is suitable for you depends on your diagnosis.

  • Volar splints are rigid on one side and soft on the other to allow for swelling. They are used to immobilise wrist fractures and soft tissue injuries to the forearm and wrist while they heal
  • Sugar tong splints are long U-shaped splints that immobilise the forearm or wrist and prevent rotation and wrist movement and keep the bones in alignment while they heal
  • Dorsal splints are a type of resting splint that keep your wrist and hand in the correct position. They are used to relieve the symptoms of conditions affecting the tendons and nerves, such as carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Thumb spica splints immobilise your thumb and/or wrist while allowing movement of your fingers. They are used to treat injuries or conditions affecting the thumb, such as osteoarthritis and de Quervain tenosynovitis
  • Ulnar gutter splints are a type of flexible splint used to immobilise, support, and stabilise the hands, fingers or wrists following injury, dislocation or fracture
  • Stack splints are used to immobilise a single finger after a fracture or tendon injury

Call or book online today to arrange a consultation to discuss private hand and wrist splinting with a consultant of your choice at Circle Health Group. This page explains what hand and wrist splinting is, how it is done and what conditions it can be used to treat.

Hand and wrist splinting can be used to treat a range of injuries and conditions affecting the hand and wrist, including:

At your first consultation, you will be seen by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, a doctor specialising in conditions affecting the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints.

Your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, general health and medical history. They will examine your hand and wrist, checking for any physical abnormalities like deformity, redness and swelling, how well you can move your hand and wrist and whether there are any areas of pain or tenderness. Your consultant may order tests such as a blood test, or imaging tests like an X-ray, CT, or MRI scans.

How is a diagnosis made?

Your consultant will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, physical examination and the results of any tests or scans.

Why is this first consultation so important?

At Circle Health Group, your first appointment is very important as it’s where your consultant will ask you about your symptoms, perform a physical examination, order any necessary tests, provide a diagnosis, and discuss possible treatments.

Your first consultation is also where we get to know you, discuss your expectations for treatment and encourage you to ask any questions you may have. It is important to us that you are as well-informed and comfortable as possible before, during, and after your treatment, so please ask your consultant any questions you may have.

At the end of your appointment, your consultant will decide if hand and wrist splinting is a suitable treatment for you based on your symptoms and diagnosis. If hand and wrist splinting is a suitable treatment for you, you will be referred to our specialist team of hand therapists. Hand therapists are fully qualified occupational or physiotherapists with specialist training and experience in treating injuries and conditions of the hand and arm.

You don’t need to do anything special to prepare for hand and wrist splinting. Wear loose comfortable clothes on your top half to allow your hand therapist to access your affected hand and wrist. Don’t wear any jewellery, such as watches, rings or bracelets, on your affected hand.

Your hand or wrist splint will usually be custom made by your hand therapist to suit your individual needs. Splints can be made from a variety of materials, including:

  • Neoprene — Neoprene is an ideal material for hand and wrist splints as it is lightweight and adjustable and provides both compression and heat retention to reduce swelling and promote healing
  • Thermoplastic – this type of splint is made from a special type of plastic that becomes soft when heated and can be moulded into the correct size and shape for you. It then becomes rigid when it cools down
  • Plaster of paris – is made from mixing a powder with water to make a thick paste and moulding it into a splint before leaving it to harden. Plaster of paris is used less often than it used to be as more advanced splint materials have become available

How do I apply and remove my hand and wrist splint?

Your hand therapist will show you how to apply and remove your hand and wrist splint and give you instructions on when to wear your splint. Follow your hand therapist’s instructions carefully and let them know if anything is unclear or you have any questions.

How do I care for my hand and wrist splint?

Your hand therapist will explain how to care for your splint and how to keep your splint clean. Instructions on caring for your hand or wrist splint may include:

  • Use a damp cloth with warm soapy water or a mild detergent to clean your splint and dry with a towel. Do not dry your splint on a radiator or leave it in the sun
  • Don’t use any lotions or oils on the skin around your splint
  • Keep your splint dry. If your splint gets wet accidentally, dry it with a hairdryer using the ‘cool’ setting
  • Don’t stick anything down your splint. If the skin under your splint is itchy, use a hairdryer on a ‘cool’ setting to circulate cool air under your splint and relieve the itching

Hand and wrist splinting is a non-invasive procedure that does not require any recovery time. Recovery from the injury or condition that led to your hand or wrist splinting depends on many factors, including the type of injury or condition, your age, general health, and activity level. Your consultant will give you an estimated recovery timeline based on your individual circumstances.

How long do I need to wear my hand and wrist splint?

How long you’ll need to wear your hand and wrist splint depends on your injury or health condition. If you are recovering from an injury, you’ll usually have to wear your splint for a few weeks or longer. If you have a chronic health condition such as arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome, you may need to wear your splint long term, in some cases, for the rest of your life. Your consultant or hand therapist will tell you how long you can expect to wear your hand and wrist splint.

Will I be able to drive home?

You will not be able to drive yourself home from hospital after your hand and wrist splinting. Please make arrangements for someone to collect you, or we can organise a taxi if you prefer.

How soon can I go back to work?

How soon you can go back to work after your hand and wrist splinting depends on your individual recovery time and the type of job you do. Talk to your consultant about when you can expect to return to work after hand and wrist splinting.

How soon can I drive?

You can drive when your hand or wrist are recovered enough for you to control your car safely. You may be able to drive safely with a minor hand or wrist condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome or mild arthritis, however if you have a serious injury such as a fracture, you must wait for it to heal fully before driving. Talk to your consultant about driving after hand and wrist splinting.

Hand and wrist splinting has several benefits over other methods of immobilisation, such as casts, including:

  • They can be applied and removed easily (if your consultant or hand therapist says it’s safe to do so)
  • They are often adjustable, which is beneficial if you have swelling after an injury
  • They are usually smaller and lighter, which may make it easier to carry out daily tasks

Hand and wrist splinting is a safe procedure with very few risks or complications. Some complications that can occur after hand and wrist splinting include:

  • Skin irritation
  • Pressure sores
  • Nerve compression
  • Infections

Seek immediate medical attention if:

  • You have severe or worsening pain or swelling
  • The area under your splint feels warm and painful
  • The skin under your splint is burning or stinging
  • You have a fever (a temperature above 38C)
  • There is discharge or an unpleasant smell coming from your splint
  • Your hand or fingers become cold or change colour
  • You have difficulty moving your fingers

At Circle Health Group, we have the experience and expertise to ensure the best possible care and outcome for our patients. As a patient with Circle Health Group, you can expect the highest standards of care, including:

  • Flexible appointment times and locations that are convenient for you
  • The freedom to choose which hospital and consultant suit your needs
  • Personalised, consultant-led treatment plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Comfortable and safe private facilities maintained by expert multidisciplinary teams
  • Private ensuite rooms as standard
  • A range of delicious healthy meals
  • Affordable, fixed-price packages with aftercare included
  • Flexible payment options to help you spread the cost of your care

If you would like to see a consultant or learn more about private hand and wrist splinting, book your appointment online today or call a member of our team directly.

Content reviewed by Circle in-house team in February 2024. Next review due February 2027.

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