How to Make a Splint

Written by Debra Stang | Published on July 16, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD

What Is a Splint?

A splint is a piece of medical equipment used to keep an injured body part from moving and to protect it from any further damage.

A splint is often used to stabilize a broken bone while the injured person is taken to the hospital for more advanced treatment. It can also be used if you have a severe strain or sprain in one of your limbs. Placed properly, a splint will help ease the pain of an injury by making sure that the wounded area does not move.

If you or a loved one is injured at home or during an activity, such as hiking, you can create a temporary splint from materials around you.

What You Will Need to Make a Splint

The first thing you will need to make a splint is something rigid (hard to bend) in order to stabilize the fracture. This could be a rolled-up newspaper, a heavy stick, a board or plank, or a rolled-up towel. If you are using something with sharp edges or something that might cause splinters, such as a stick or board, be sure to pad it by wrapping it in cloth.

You will also need something to fasten the splint in place. Shoelaces, belts, ropes, and strips of cloth will work. Medical tape can also be used if you have it. Try not to place commercial tape, such as duct tape, directly against a person’s skin.

How to Apply a Splint

Attend to any bleeding before you attempt to place the splint. You can stop the bleeding by putting pressure directly on the wound. Then, apply a bandage, a square of gauze, or a piece of cloth. Do not try to move the body part that needs to be splinted—you may accidentally cause more damage.

Place the splint so that it rests on the joint above the injury and the joint below it. For example, if you are splinting a forearm, place the rigid support item under the forearm. Then, tie or tape it to the arm just below the wrist and above the elbow.

Avoid placing ties directly over the injured area. You should fasten the splint tightly enough to hold the body part still, but not so tightly that the ties will cut off the person’s circulation.

Once the splint is applied, you should check the areas around it every few minutes for signs of decreased blood circulation. If the extremities begin to appear pale, swollen, or tinged with blue, loosen the ties that are holding the splint.

If the injured person complains that the splint is causing pain, try loosening the ties a little. Then, check that no ties were placed directly over an injury. If these measures do not help and the person is still feeling pain from the splint, you should remove it.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the injured person may be suffering from shock if he or she is feeling faint or taking only short, rapid breaths. In this case, try to lay the person down without affecting the injured body part. If possible, you should elevate his or her legs and position his or her head slightly below heart level. (Mayo)

After you have applied the splint and the injured body part is no longer able to move, call 911 or take your loved one to the nearest urgent care clinic or emergency room for a check-up and further treatment.

Splinting the Hand

The hand is an especially difficult area to immobilize. The University of Maryland Medical Center has the following tips for splinting a hand:

First, treat any open wounds and control any bleeding. Then, place a wad of cloth in the palm of the injured person’s hand. A washcloth, a ball of socks, or a tennis ball can work well. Ask the person to close his or her fingers loosely around the object.

While the person’s fingers are closed around the object, loosely place padding between his or her fingers. Next, use a large piece of cloth or gauze to wrap the whole hand from the fingertips to the wrist. The cloth should go across the hand, from the thumb to the pinkie.

Finally, secure the cloth with tape or ties. Make sure to leave the fingertips uncovered. This will allow you to check for signs of poor circulation.

Once the hand splint is on, seek medical attention at an emergency room or urgent care center as soon as possible.

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