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In order to choose the best forearm splint, you need to assess what function it will need to serve. Many injuries to the wrist and forearm involve a broken bone or strained tendon, but not all do. Sometimes the injury is not that severe, or it is the result of a chronic issue, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. If you need a forearm splint, however, you will almost always need protection and stabilization of some kind.
For injuries that require the arm be protected from shock, the best forearm splint might be an inflatable one. The cushion of air typically shapes the splint to the contour of the limb. It also applies uniform pressure to the forearm, keeps circulation going, and reduces swelling. Another advantage is that air forearm splints are usually transparent, meaning they can be left on when getting an x-ray. It could, however, be popped by a sharp object, and air splints don't always allow for the best ventilation.
Conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow can benefit from an air splint, but there are also specialized braces that are available for these conditions that will allow some movement while keeping some stability and protection. In instances where the elbow is also involved, a long arm splint that keeps the forearm and elbow in place will usually be used. If the fingers also need stabilization, a specialized forearm splint will be used. These have attachments that stabilize the fingers.
If the arm is broken, you will probably get a volar splint or sugar tong splint. The splint will usually be very stiff and made of aluminum, plastic, or fiberglass, and have a stiff metal piece for stabilization. These types of splints usually start from the palm, go up the forearm, and stop before they reach the elbow.
There are many variations on this particular type of splint. Important factors to consider are ease of removal and ventilation. Some forearm splints wrap completely around the arm, while others leave open areas exposed and have stiff components held in place by latches or Velcro®. Velcro® will breathe better, but latches may provide an extra layer of protection.
If you need something cheap or simple and have only slightly injured the wrist or forearm, a simple volar splint with Velcro® will probably work. A thick, cloth bandage wrapped tightly around the forearm will offer mild stabilization as well and is usually cheaper, but it doesn’t breathe as well. It is always best to check with a doctor whenever you are injured to verify the extent of any damage and to make sure you are getting the correct forearm splint for your condition.
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