Cast care instructions
Learn more about proper cast care.
Cast care instructions
Cast care is particularly important in the first few days. You want your recovery process to get off on the right foot, so understanding the best practices for maintaining your cast during this time will help solidify your recovery and help your injury begin to heal as it should.
Clean and dry your cast
It is very important to keep your cast dry when bathing or showering. Although fiberglass is resistant to water damage, your cast should not get wet. The cotton lining under the fiberglass or plaster can become wet, and may cause skin breakdown or irritation. If the cotton lining gets wet, try to dry it with a blow dryer on a low, cool setting. If you are unable to dry it, or the skin becomes itchy, you should advise our office of this condition as soon as possible.
If you have a cast on your leg and it is wet outside, put a bag over the cast to keep it dry. If it is a walking leg cast, put your cast shoe on over the cast and the bag. Do not put the bag on the outside of the cast and cast shoe, as the bag can be slippery and cause further injury.
Waterproof casts are not used for several different types of fractures. They are also not appropriate for certain body parts. However, if you have been given a waterproof cast, then you are able to get this cast wet.
It is still very important to make sure that all of the water drains out of the cast after getting wet each time. This can be accomplished by simply holding the cast vertically to allow the water to drain out adequately. Another recommendation is to rinse each cast out with clean tap water after any exposure to chlorinated water (swimming pools, hot tubs, etc.).
Do not insert anything into your cast
You should never scratch yourself by inserting anything into the cast. If you do so, you risk cutting your skin beneath the cast, which could result in an infection. Also, if an item does become lodged in, or falls inside of, the cast, please notify us immediately. This can cause skin irritation and skin breakdown.
Elevate your cast
Swelling around the area of a broken bone can increase anywhere from one to three days following an initial injury. If and when you encounter swelling, it will make the cast feel tighter, potentially making your pain worse. One way to alleviate this is through elevating your cast above your heart level. This generally requires you to be lying down.
When trying to decide how high to elevate your cast, ask yourself if water would run "downhill" from the fractured bone to the heart. If so, that is a good elevation. Elevation should continue until the swelling and tightness go away.
When elevating a leg cast, pillows should be placed under the leg and calf, as this leaves the heel free and can prevent sores from developing.
Gently exercising or stretching the fingers or toes of the limb with the cast on can also help to reduce swelling.
Ice your cast
Icing is optional, but it may help to decrease pain. If you have a recent injury, place a well-sealed bag of ice on the injured area for 20 to 30 minutes. You can do this three to four times per day for the first 24 to 48 hours after the injury. Put a towel on the cast, and place the bag of ice on top of the towel. As always, be careful not to get the cast wet.
Wear the cast shoe
If you have a walking cast — sometimes called a "boot" — you must always wear the cast shoe. The cast is very slippery to walk on, and the bottom of it will break down easily if the shoe is not worn at all times. If the cast does break down, you may need to come into the office for removal and reapplication of the cast.
Questions or concerns about your cast
Some issues related to your cast may require immediate medical attention. You should contact us if you develop:
- Any abnormal skin discolorations, such as blue or purple skin
- Broken or damaged cast (please do not attempt to remove your cast)
- Extreme tightness or excessive swelling under the cast
- Numbness or tingling not relieved by 30 to 45 minutes of elevation
- Persistent burning under the cast
- Severe pain not relieved by medication prescribed for you
If you have any questions, or are afraid that you might have a problem, we want to hear from you. If you need assistance outside of our normal business hours, please call our office and you will be directed to our after-hours answering service. They will get you in touch with an on-call provider who can assist you.