Different Types of Orthopedic Immobilization Techniques

Different Types of Orthopedic Immobilization Techniques

by Holly (SU)

Immobilization is necessary for an orthopedic injury to heal properly. Injured bones, ligaments, tendons, and more will incur further damage if the affected areas aren’t immobilized. Keeping the area from moving also helps reduce pain.

Immobilization is accomplished through different procedures that your doctor will determine, depending on the location and severity of the traumatized area.

·      Braces are used to immobilize a body part following an injury. They may also be utilized for support and to keep a bone in place. A doctor will order a brace for a patient following surgery to assist in alignment. Braces are adjustable, allowing the gradual addition of movement as the bone is healing. Braces provide less support than a cast.

·      Casts are the most common way to immobilize a fracture. A cast is placed on the arm or leg after your doctor has aligned it properly. The cast prevents the fractured bone from moving, keeping it in place so that the broken spaces will rejoin. Before a cast is placed on the patient, a soft, protective padding made of cotton or synthetic material is wrapped around the area to be cast. Casts are custom-made to fit the patient and are made of fiberglass or plaster (fiberglass is more durable, although neither should get wet). 

·      Collars immobilize the neck area to prevent further damage to the head, neck, and spine. There are different types of collars for different injuries. A cervical collar is hard to the touch and is primarily used in emergency situations when the type of injury is unknown. It is also used for a definite head injury. Soft collars reduce pain and restrict movement but are less restrictive than hard collars.

·      Slings are a simple way to immobilize an arm following an injury, but they are often coupled with a cast for optimum healing. A sling is a bandage that is folded into a triangle, placed under the arm and then tied around the neck. A sports trainer might place a sling on a player’s arm to immobilize it until a doctor can see him or her.

·      Traction involves the use of tension to realign broken bones. Fractured bones are slowly pulled back together with the assistance of ropes and pulleys that are weighted. Pins penetrate bones and are attached to a rope and pulley with weights. Traction stabilizes broken bones, while also immobilizing the patient’s movement. Traction is more common for cervical injuries so that the spine and neck are immobilized.

Immobilization requires long lengths of time where the patient is unable to move the area that is being restricted. While immobilization is necessary for healing, it also has drawbacks. A patient might experience muscle atrophy, which is when the muscle shrinks; it can be addressed with rehabilitation therapy following the bone’s healing. A patient may also experience muscle loss, which can be addressed with exercise. Both of these side effects of immobilization are typically short-term and temporary.

Watauga Orthopaedics was founded to address all musculoskeletal problems and concerns. We’re here for you before, during, and after an orthopedic injury. Our doctors will address your orthopedic challenges through a multi-specialty approach. Call (423) 282-9011 today to schedule your consultation.