Types of Casts & Braces

Casts and braces are necessary for injuries or broken and fractured bones. They keep muscles, bones and tendons from moving and creating further injury. There are several different types of casts and braces, made from different types of materials and some even come in different colours.

Cast Information

Casts are necessary because they immobilise the joint above and the joint below the damaged area to keep it straight and ensure it cannot move. Casts help bones heal and grow back correctly. The outside of the cast, or the hard part, is made out of plaster, which is white in colour or fibreglass, which comes in a variety of designs and colours. There is also a waterproof type of cast. Cotton lines the inside of the cast, making it more comfortable for the wearer.

Arm Casts

The first type of cast is called a short arm cast and it is applied below the elbow to the hand. It is used to treat forearm or wrist fractures. They are also used to hold the forearm or wrist muscles and tendons in place after surgery. Another cast is called the long arm cast. The long arm cast is applied from the upper arm to the hand. It is used for upper arm, elbow or forearm fractures. It holds the arm and elbow muscles immobile after surgery. An arm cylinder cast is a cast that is applied from the upper arm to the wrist. It holds elbow muscles and tendons in place after a dislocation or surgery.

Trunk and Leg Casts

Some of the following casts extend from the trunk of the body, going all the way down the leg as well while others simply are placed around the leg. A Minerva cast fits around the neck and trunk area. They are used in conjunction with surgery of the neck of upper back. Short leg casts begin below the knee and end at the foot. They are used after lower leg fractures, severe ankle sprains, strains or fractures. They also hold the leg or foot muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow proper healing. The leg cylinder casts fit from the upper thigh, extending to the ankle. They are used after knee dislocations, lower leg fractures or surgeries on the leg or knee.

Spica Casts

A shoulder spica cast is applied around the trunk of the body to the shoulder, arm and hand. They are used after shoulder dislocations or shoulder surgeries. A unilateral hip spica cast is applied from the chest and stops at the foot. It is only applied on the chest and one leg---not both legs. These casts are used for thigh fractures. They also hold hip and thigh muscles and tendons in place after surgery for healing purposes. A one and one-half hip spica cast is applied to the trunk, on one leg above the foot and on the other leg above the knee. In this situation, a bar is placed between both legs to keep the hips or thigh muscles and tendons to heal. Bilateral long leg hip spica casts are used on pelvis, hip or thigh fractures. They keep the hip and thigh muscles and tendons immobile. It is applied from the chest, ending just before the feet on both legs. A bar is also placed between the feet to keep the hips and legs from moving.

Brace Information

Candidates for braces are patients coming out of surgeries, people healing from accidents and people dealing with sports injuries. A doctor may advise a leg brace. A brace is not the same thing as a cast and patients must be careful when using them. Braces are designed to stabilise a fracture or surgery site, allowing the patient to be able to participate in weight bearing activities. Braces provide support for knees, ankles or joints during these weight bearing activities.

Kinds of Braces

Some types of braces are designed to enhance circulation and reduce swelling. Some fit inside shoes, while others fit around the shoe in a boot-like formation. Some can be worn inside the clothing and some fit outside the clothing. Boot type braces use Velcro or nylon strings instead of regular lacings to add comfort and easy accessibility. Other braces have steel rods as support, while some are similar to women's stockings. Sometimes braces can be bought at pharmacies and may be used at the buyer's discretion.


Without casts and braces, bones would not heal or regrow properly, causing many problems for the patient. It is important to follow your doctor's instructions concerning your cast and brace with mobility issues. Some accident may require large casts that cover a great deal of the body. The patient must learn to accept the casts and the limitations in movement that come with them. It is advised that you keep the braces and casts clean, do not scratch the skin under the cast and keep the cast elevated above chest level to decrease swelling. These are only some of the tips your doctor will give you. With proper care and the proper cast or brace, the patient can heal quickly and relatively painlessly.

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About the Author

Megan Allyce Snider is a freelance writer who has contributed to a variety of websites. Snider holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Jacksonville State University and an Associate of Arts in liberal arts from Muscatine Community College. She has also studied German and English at Shorter College.