What’s 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.

Splinting 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 rigid splint will help ease the pain of an injury by making sure that the wounded area doesn’t 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.

The first thing you’ll need when making a splint is something rigid to stabilize the fracture. Items you can use include:

  • a rolled-up newspaper
  • a heavy stick
  • a board or plank
  • a rolled-up towel

If you’re using something with sharp edges or something that might cause splinters, such as a stick or board, be sure to pad it well by wrapping it in cloth. Proper padding can also help reduce additional pressure on the injury.

You’ll also need something to fasten the homemade 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.

You can follow the instructions below to learn how to apply a splint.

1. Attend to any bleeding

Attend to bleeding, if any, before you attempt to place the splint. You can stop the bleeding by putting pressure directly on the wound.

2. Apply padding

Then, apply a bandage, a square of gauze, or a piece of cloth.

Don’t try to move the body part that needs to be splinted. By trying to realign a misshapen body part or broken bone, you may accidentally cause more damage.

3. Place the splint

Carefully place the homemade splint so that it rests on the joint above the injury and the joint below it.

For example, if you’re 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.

4. Watch for signs of decreased blood circulation or shock

Once the splinting is completed, 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.

Post-accident swelling can make the splint too tight. While checking for tightness, also feel for a pulse. If it’s faint, loosen the ties.

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 don’t help and the person is still feeling pain from the splint, you should remove it.

The injured person may be experiencing shock, which might include them feeling faint or taking only short, rapid breaths. In this case, try to lay them down without affecting the injured body part. If possible, you should elevate their legs and position their head slightly below heart level.

5. Seek medical help

After you’ve applied the splint and the injured body part is no longer able to move, call 911 or your local emergency services. You can also take your loved one to the nearest urgent care clinic or emergency room (ER).

They’ll need to receive a checkup and further treatment.

The hand is an especially difficult area to immobilize. Here are some tips for making your own hand splint.

1. Control any bleeding

First, treat any open wounds and control any bleeding.

2. Place an object in the palm of the hand

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 their fingers loosely around the object.

3. Apply padding

After the person’s fingers are closed around the object, loosely place padding between their 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.

4. Secure the padding

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.

5. Seek medical help

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

You should seek immediate medical help should any of the following conditions occur:

When faced with an emergency injury, your first action should be arranging proper medical attention for the injured person.

While waiting for qualified help or to assist with transportation, a homemade splint can be effective first aid.

You must, however, carefully follow instructions so that your splinting doesn’t make the injury worse.