What Is a Shoulder Splint?

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  • Written By: Solomon Branch
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 10 May 2020
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A shoulder splint is typically used to help keep the shoulder and upper arm stable after surgery, injury, or other trauma. These help keep the shoulder or upper arm straight and align the bones and joints, which helps the healing process. A shoulder sprint is often combined with a shoulder sling, brace or other immobilization device to help keep the shoulder from moving and being further damaged. Usually, these are found at medical facilities or supply stores, but a makeshift splint can be manufactured if an injury occurs in an area where no medical treatment is available, such as when camping or hiking.

The most basic shoulder splint typically consists of a hard material, such as plastic, that attaches to either side of the upper arm. This is held in place by an attached strap or can be used with a sling or immobilizer that wraps around the body and shoulder. In addition to keeping the arm straight, a splint provides pain relief and holds the upper arm and shoulder together to help the affected area heal properly. If the shoulder moves, it can become dislocated or incur other damage, such as a ligament or tendon tear.

A variety of shoulder splints are available, the design depending on the type of injury or trauma to the arm or shoulder. Some are similar to immobilizers and are adjustable to adapt to the various stages of the healing process, which means they can act as a splint or an immobilizer, or both. A doctor or surgeon will assign a shoulder splint depending on the particular needs of the patient.

If an injury occurs and no medical care is available, a homemade splint can be put together using cardboard, wood or other hard material, along with a bandana or towel to wrap it in. A homemade shoulder splint can help keep the shoulder stable until proper medical care can be administered. When applying one, care must be taken to ensure the splint is tight but not too tight that it cuts off circulation. In addition, the shoulder and elbow should be kept immobile to avoid further injury.

While wearing a shoulder splint, the pulse should be taken at the wrist and elbow every few hours to ensure proper blood flow. If the pulse is found to be weak, the shoulder splint should be loosened and applied again with less pressure. A shoulder splint that does not fit properly or causes discomfort should be replaced, preferably by a qualified physician or physical therapist.

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