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Upper limb splints fact sheet

Upper limb splints

Upper limb splints are commonly used by children with cerebral palsy to support and aid the best types of movement.

Types

There are different types of upper limb splints and they are used for different purposes.

  • Resting splints—generally used to immobilise the joints and provide a prolonged stretch to tight muscles
  • Functional splints—designed to support the joints in more optimal positions for functional hand use.

Why we use splints

Splints can be used to:

  • provide prolonged stretch to tight muscles
  • prevent further muscle contracture
  • support muscles that are weak or overstretched
  • support muscles and joints in a more optimal position for functional hand use
  • provide sensory input into the upper limbs

Upper limb splints can be made out of different materials, depending on the purpose of the splint:

  • Thermoplastic—heated and then moulded around the child’s hand, provide firm support.
  • Neoprene—wet suit type material sewn to fit your child’s hand, provides more gentle support.
  • Combination—combination of materials including neoprene and thermoplastic to provide firmer support in certain areas
  • Pre-fabricated—pre-made and generally made out of sewn and boned fabric.

Your child’s upper limb splints

  • Children with cerebral palsy or brain injury may experience muscle tightness in some muscle groups in their upper limbs. Muscle weakness can also occur in some muscle groups.
  • Upper limb splints have been recommended and made for your child as part of their upper limb management plan. Elbow / wrist / hand / thumb splints have been made for your child’s left / right
  • Your child’s splints aims to:
    • provide prolonged stretch to tight muscles
    • prevent further muscle contracture
    • support muscles that are weak or overstretched
    • support muscles and joints in a more optimal position for functional hand use
    • provide sensory input into the upper limb

Putting the splints on:

 

 

 

Wearing regime:

 

 

 

Caring for the splint

It is important to care for your child’s splints to prolong its life.

  • Don’t leave the splint anywhere hot—thermoplastic will melt
  • Wash the splint in luke-warm soapy water and rinse—do this every week or more regularly in summer
  • Take care of the straps and Velcro—clean out any material that gets trapped in Velcro to maintain its stickiness
  • Contact your occupational therapist if you notice any areas of breakage or material coming apart.

When to contact your occupational therapist

There are some precautions and things to look out for when a child has splints:

  • Pressure areas – Watch out for any red marks. If the mark disappears in 15–-20 minutes there is no concern. If it doesn’t disappear, contact your occupational therapist immediately, do not use the splint until you have spoken to them.Rash—occasionally children may react to the splint material, contact your occupational therapist immediately
  • Swelling – sometimes the pressure of the splint can cause swelling. If this happens, remove the splint, elevate the limb and contact your occupational therapist.

Contact us

Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service
Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
Level 6, 501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane 4101
t: 07 3068 2950
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
f: 07 3068 3909
e: qprs@health.qld.gov.au

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Resource No: F183. Developed by the Queensland Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, Children’s Health Queensland. Updated: August 2015. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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