Life in a cast: Handy tips for making the most of it

Life in a cast: Handy tips for making the most of it

So there you were, defending your cowering husband from a
vicious pack of crazed ninja warriors when one caught you across
the arm, breaking the bone.
That’s the story you’ll tell your co-workers anyway, right after
the doctor finishes casting that nasty break you suffered tripping
over the rug in the laundry room at full speed.
So there you were, defending your cowering husband from a vicious pack of crazed ninja warriors when one caught you across the arm, breaking the bone.

That’s the story you’ll tell your co-workers anyway, right after the doctor finishes casting that nasty break you suffered tripping over the rug in the laundry room at full speed.

So now what? Four to six weeks of doing absolutely nothing? Not quite.

There’s never been so much work involved in putting on your make-up or curling your hair it seems. But Dr. Robert Kessler of Advanced Chiropractic Spine and Sports Injury Rehabilitation Center in Morgan Hill has a few tips on getting through the next few weeks with as little disruption in your normal routine as possible.

Step one on your list? Relax, he said.

“Realize it will get better, and to be trying to do your hair or wear a shirt and tie every day may not work,” said Kessler. “Sometimes you just have to take a back seat and realize that some of the things you’re used to normally doing aren’t possible. It doesn’t give you an excuse to be a slob, but there will be some concessions you’ll have to make.”

Right now might not be the time for perfectly curled hair or sexy heels, but it just might be the time to go for that no-fuss, no-muss ‘do you’ve been thinking of going for in the last few years. That time spent in a cast might also be a good time for button-up shirts, comfortable shoes and brushing up on your phone skills.

“If you’re having trouble typing or shifting (the gears of your car), you’re going to need an automatic and a Dictaphone,” said Kessler, “but there are other things you can do to help yourself out. Go from e-mail to voice-mail as much as you can. Try to do business in person. Remember, too, that our job is to protect our patients, so if a doctor feels that certain aspects of your life threaten to compromise your injury, doctor’s orders stand.”

Ask your doctor plenty of questions as casts, which are made from a variety of materials including fiberglass and plaster, have different functions. Some are weight-bearing, which means they’re meant for walking on or putting pressure on, while others are not. Some can become slightly wet without too much trouble to the wearer, while others will cause discomfort and other problems like burning or flaking of the skin.

Plenty of friends will offer tips to get at itchy skin underneath the cast, like using a bent coat hanger scratch or advising patients to shower with a trash bag over the cast, but Kessler advises running these ideas by your doctor first.

“You want to be really careful with anything that falls outside of what a doctor has to say,” said Kessler. “A lot of people think that scratching with the coat hanger is a great idea, but if you rub the skin raw or you cut yourself, now you have an open wound in a dirty, sweaty cast. That’s not a good environment.”

The sweaty build-up inside the cast creates most of the itch you’re experiencing, so sticking to the air-conditioned recesses of your home or office may be a better idea than trying to scratch, said Kessler.

When you must go out in the summer heat, Kessler advises patients with casts on their feet to choose heel heights that match the rise caused by their cast to avoid additional pain caused by compensating for the difference in leg height. Wear loose-fitting clothing that will fit over the cast when possible, or consider cutting a few shirts in a discreet manner to fit over a troublesome cast. A shirt sleeve sliced up the back can not only fit over a cast, but be rolled to look like the sleeve is simply rolled up.

There are products that can help if you want to look your best, too. Look for long-handled hair brushes at beauty supply stores and, if you must blow dry your hair, consider picking up a dryer stand. These handy products, sold in stores such as Linens ‘n Things, hold a hair dryer in place, allowing patients to style their hair one-handed for a price of about $20.

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