Frequently Asked Questions
How long will I have the cast?
Most mild fractures require approximately four weeks in a cast.
Should I take any medication?
Take ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) only as needed for pain. Usually the worst pain is the first night after injury. Once the cast is applied, and particularly after the first three days, pain should subside considerably.
Do I need to use the sling?
You may stop using the sling as soon as you no longer need it due to pain.
Do I need to worry about swelling, circulation problems or the cast becoming too tight?
As long as the cast is not applied on the same day the injury occurred, there is usually no concern about swelling. However, if you do experience significant increased pain or consistent numbness, you should return for further evaluation.
Swelling and bruising can develop around the end of the hand and fingers (or end of foot and toes for leg casts) due to the delayed effects of gravity moving the swelling and bruising from the site of the fracture downward to the fingers or toes. This is normal and usually resolves in a few days.
Do I need to keep my cast dry?
The cast is waterproof. It does not hurt the cast to get it wet, but water can get inside the cast at the ends. It can be uncomfortable and irritating to the skin if it is often wet inside the cast.
Use a plastic bag and a rubber band to keep water out of the cast for bathing and showering. Alternatively, you can buy plastic cast covers in large drug stores. If you want to be able to submerge your cast, such as in a swimming pool, you can purchase a waterproof cast cover online from vendors such as AquaShield, (800) 338-8512.
What can I do about itching?
If you keep your cast clean and dry inside, itching will be minimal. Do not stick anything inside the cast to scratch. The skin gets softer in the cast and it is easy to pierce the skin and cause bleeding and infection. Use a blow dryer on a cool temperature to relieve itching.
What activities should I avoid while in a cast?
- No activities with impact to the cast, such as hitting things with the cast or hard objects like baseballs hitting the cast.
- No activities with hard impact to the arm in the cast, such as hitting baseballs or tennis balls with the casted arm.
- No activities with high risk of falling from equipment, such as trampolines, skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, ice skates and monkey bars.
- No activities with risk of falling from heights, such as monkey bars, play structures and trees. Although the arm or leg inside the cast is well-protected from injury from falls, it is easier to injure other areas when you cannot use the arm or leg in the cast normally.
- Cautious bicycling is OK if you typically do not fall from your bike.
What activities can I do while in the cast? Can I write? Can I play musical instruments? Can I play sports?
If you have a cast on your arm, your fingers will not be restricted, so you can:
- Write and type.
- Play musical instruments, if you can get your hand in the necessary position to play.
- Use the arm gently for routine activities as long as there is not hard impact to the arm.
You can use all other parts of your body to exercise.
- It is OK to run and play sports where you run but that do not impact the casted arm (such as soccer but not goalie, tennis with the other arm, basketball with the other arm).
- Referees usually do not allow athletes with a cast to play in games because of risk of injury to other players. However, you should be able to practice. Soccer is sometimes allowed if the cast is padded externally.
- Certain contact sports allow full participation while in a cast, such as football and lacrosse.
- Dance activities that do not involve weight on the arm are fine.
Leg Casts: Can I walk in my cast and when?
If you are told that you have a "walking cast," you may begin walking in the cast as soon as the pain allows. You will be given a cast sandal to use for walking to provide extra traction. Walking directly on the cast can cause you to slip and the cast to break.
What happens after my cast is removed?
You need to schedule an appointment approximately four weeks from the date of injury for cast removal.
At that appointment, the cast will be removed with a cast cutter tool, and an X-ray will be taken to evaluate healing. If the break has healed adequately, you will be advised to use the arm or leg gently for several days to ease stiffness. There is often some discomfort from the muscles but not the broken bone, due to stiffness. This goes away as soon as the flexibility is regained.
To ease the discomfort and stiffness, make circles with the joint and do not be afraid to use it for gentle activities. Full motion is regained with normal use of the joint and physical therapy or additional exercises are not usually needed. You may return to strenuous use of the arm as soon as the stiffness has resolved, usually within several days.
For one month after the cast has been removed, refrain from activities with high risk of falling from heights (monkey bars, play structures, trees) or equipment (trampolines, skateboards, rollerblades, scooters, ice skates) to avoid injury to the recently healed fracture. It can temporarily be prone to breaking more easily in the same place.
Can my friends sign my cast?
Yes! We have several cast color choices and markers of various colors will be visible on all cast colors, even black. Use a white, gold, or silver marker for a black cast.
What if I have a problem with my cast?
As long as you are not using the body part strenuously and not doing any activities with risk of impact to the cast due to falling on it, it is not an emergency. It's OK to wait until the next work day.