Signs That There May Be a Problem With Your Cast

Casts are an excellent treatment for broken bones. However, problems can arise and you should know how to assess your cast. The goal of most patients after sustaining a broken bone is to heal their fracture as quickly as possible. In order to accomplish that goal, it's important to ensure you are doing the right treatment.

A doctor holding a child's broken ankle
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If you have a cast, that means you need to be able to recognize the problems that can occur when you have a cast. Here are some suggestions for caring for your cast.

When to Call Your Healthcare Provider

There are times when you may need help. If you have any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign of a problem that may require further evaluation or treatment:

  • Pain or swelling that is not adequately controlled with medication prescribed by your healthcare provider
  • Worsening numbness or tingling in the extremity (hand or foot)
  • Inability to move your fingers or toes beyond the cast
  • Circulation problems in your hand or foot (check by pressing down on a fingernail or toenail; the skin beneath should turn whitish but quickly turn pink again when pressure is released)
  • Loosening, splitting, or breaking of the cast
  • Unusual odors, sensations, or wounds beneath the cast
  • If you develop a fever or unexplained illness

Keeping Your Cast Dry

One of the most challenging aspects of having a cast is keeping it dry. While there are waterproof options or cast materials that are made to tolerate being wet, most people have to find a way to keep the cast dry.

Fortunately, others before you have come up with solutions to this problem. Using a large plastic bag secured with rubber bands or using plastic wrap are two common solutions using household supplies. There are also commercially produced cast covers.

If you get water under your cast and it wasn't made to tolerate water, you should certainly let your healthcare provider know as the cast may need to be replaced.

Removing Your Cast

Casts may be fun for a little while, but for just about everyone they eventually become very annoying. Unfortunately, some patients will try to remove their own cast. This can not only delay treatment of the fracture, but it can also be dangerous.

When your healthcare provider removes your cast, they will use a saw specially designed to not harm the person wearing the cast. Trying to use other tools to remove a cast can be dangerous and cause significant injury. If you feel there is a problem with your cast, and it needs to be removed or replaced, see your healthcare provider for help.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the signs of an infection under a cast?

    If you experience drainage from beneath the cast, fever, or pain, seek medical attention as these are signs of an infection.

  • How do you sleep with a cast?

    To make yourself more comfortable, elevate the cast above your heart with pillows. Elevating the cast helps to reduce swelling and pain. You can use more pillows to prevent excessive movement of the affected limb.

  • How long does it take to heal a fracture?

    The healing time for fractures varies by the bone and type of break, but the average is about six to eight weeks.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Family Physicians. Cast Care. Updated March 14, 2017.

  2. Orlando Hand Surgery Associates. Cast care: signs & symptoms.

  3. Texas Orthopedics. How do I sleep in a cast?

  4. Cleveland Clinic. Bone fractures. Updated November 30, 2020.