Air splints are inflatable braces made from clear plastic and designed to fit around a damaged area – in this case the ankles. In many ways they are more practical than ‘conventional’ splints in that they are able to be adjusted in size (due to being inflatable), can be kept on during X-rays due to their transparency, are cheaper than padded splints and are reusable. If you have been told by your physician to wear an ankle air splint then it is impossible that you do and that you keep it on during any physical tasks to ensure that your ankle stays supported and that you do not cause it further damage by twisting it or putting too much weight on it.
Normally a doctor will put your ankle air splint on for you and you will be asked to keep this on. However in some cases you may have to put the splint on yourself – for example should it come off. Here we will look at how to go about putting one on.
Check the foot
First you should check that your foot has adequate circulation and sensation before you seal it inside the splint. Touch your toes and check that you can feel it as you should.
Add talcum powder
Next you should open up the splint and cover the inside with talcum powder. This is important as it will allow the plastic splint to slide on and prevent it from sticking to your skin and thus getting stuck.
Slide it in
Now you will need to slide the splint on. Hold your foot still with one hand or by propping it up on something (you will need to lift the heel up when you go past that part of your foot with the splint) and then slowly slide it in. You may need assistance as the task of balancing the foot while sliding on the splint can otherwise be quite complicated.
Zip it up
Most air splints seal with a zipper. So while holding the ankle still, cautiously zip the splint up. Again this may require assistance.
To inflate the splint you will need to use an inflation tube for the mouth and blow into it, or to use a hand pump. If one of your hands is inside the splint holding your foot then remove this before it gets trapped by the pressure. The idea here is to provide support but not create too much pressure that might cut off your circulation and cause more damage to your foot. Pump up gradually then, and stop at the point where touching the splint makes just a slight dent. Again check your toes for feeling. If you do not have a hand pump then you may need a third party to help blow into the mouth valve as it can otherwise be a difficult manoeuvre.
Now you need to rest your leg which you can do by elevating it slightly above your heart in order to drain the fluids and reduce swelling. Check that your toes are okay and check that your splint is not leaking air. Also check your toes for sensation until you are happy that the splint is correctly on.
While you wear the splint the amount of pressure may change. For instance they can expand when you move from a cold environment into a hot one. As such you such you should keep checking the inflation of your splint and let out air if necessary by releasing the air valve, or pump up the splint by blowing into it or using the hand pump.