I’m getting my cast off today, what should I expect?
Walking into the cast room can be quite a roller coaster of emotions. In the back of your mind, you know that taking the cast off shouldn’t be horrible. People have had casts removed for several decades without showing up on the news, “Top Story” or “60minutes” … right? There is no mistaking that getting a cast off can be unnerving. Hopefully, after reading this, we can bring your anxiety down just a little.
The cast saw itself has a blade that vibrates back and forth, so it doesn’t rotate around like it appears it would. IT WONT CUT YOU. It is nothing like a power tool you would find in the garage. The blade and handle are connected to a vacuum. This is there to keep the cast dust from getting all over the room and patients. Since the cast saw is attached to a vacuum, it tends to make a lot of noise. Not to worry.
The cast saw can cut through the fiberglass or plaster, the padding or cotton lining underneath will be removed with scissors. The nurse will cut down either side of the cast so they can get access to the padding. Then, they will use their rounded tip scissors to cut through the padding. At this point you should be able to slip your arm or leg out of the cast.
The blade does have a tendency to get warm from all of the friction, especially if you have a long cast on. If you let the nurse know that it is getting warm then he or she can hold the saw away from the cast material for a few seconds for it to cool off. No problem.
Why is my limb so stiff? I thought my fracture was healed.
After the cast comes off, the immobilized body parts ARE GOING TO BE STIFF. This is normal. If we immobilized a perfectly healthy wrist or ankle that wasn’t broken, for several weeks, it would be stiff too. The stiffness will take time to work out. Once the doctor says it is safe to start working on getting the motion back then it is okay to stretch, stretch ,stretch. Sometimes an occupational or physical therapist is necessary to get a head start on the stiffness.
It only takes 2 weeks of inactivity (casting) to be able to visibly see the difference of muscle mass. Work hard on your home program when the doctor says it is safe. Strength will come back, but just like any exercise program, you have to work at it. Strength is much easier to lose than to gain.
“EW, I got out of the cast and underneath it is all gross!”
After coming out of a cast, everything looks, feels, and smells weird. Again, this is normal. All the skin that is normally shed to the great unknown is trapped in the cast and on you. Do not scratch and scrub that will irritate the skin; It’s been protected for over one month its sensitive skin right now. Take a warm shower and the extra skin should slowly fall off.
As for the dark, thick hair that has appeared under the cast this is a natural occurrence. The hair should thin back out and lighten up once exposed to the light.
Author: Stephanie Jones, AT
Kansas City Bone & Joint Clinic