Why do occupational therapists splint?

December 16, 2007 at 10:49 pm 8 comments

The above title was used as a search engine query to get to this blog.  I think that this is a good question.  Why do we splint?  Why not PT’s?  Or orthopedic technicians?

The obvious answer is that we make splints for functional purposes, whether it is an extension splint for a below knee amputation (I made my second one last week!), or a resting hand splint to prevent hand contractures. But this is not always consistent, as I’ve seen only PT’s making referrals for certain types of splints, such as multi-podus boots to prevent foot drop. The good thing is that when it comes to splinting, the occupational therapists are the ones that get called for the most part.

I enjoy splinting.  Back when I was a student, I made tens of foot-plates.  We had patients who had external fixators attached to their legs, and we would make foot-plates to prevent foot drop (multi-podus boots wouldn’t work as the ex-fix got in the way, see picture for example).  As my experience grows in acute care, I’d like to see my experience in splinting grow as well.  I am even considering specializing in splinting.


Entry filed under: acute care, occupational therapy, ortho, OT, phys dys, splint.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Itzmiuga  |  April 2, 2008 at 4:01 am

    Hi, admire your interest in splinting. I dont like to do splints and my first splint for my first patient during my clinicals took me half a day to make it. It was a resting hand splint. *sheepish grin*.
    My slowness in making splint is because I am not good at making designs.

  • 2. Ciaran O'Hagan  |  January 10, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Interesting to read your post but I have to say that I don’t believe that splinting is truly OT. You say the most obvious reason is to improve function, but you could also argue that medication can have the same effect – so does that mean OT’s such train to dispense medication?
    OT’s are concerned with meaningful occupation and use activity as their therapeutic medium e.g. a OT on a stroke ward would assess a patient washing and dressing as this is a meaningful occupation, but with splinting there is no activity involved, just remedial (to correct alignment) or compensatory(to decrease ROM) action, so therefore not truly OT.

    • 3. Darryl  |  December 17, 2014 at 12:58 pm

      Splinting is truly OT, and medications can not keep a BKA from losing its ROM during the healing process after the amputation or even burn victims. Splinting combined with functional activity or even PROM can keep the scaring process from contracting which could permanently set the affected body part into flexion.

  • 4. H Mckenna  |  April 6, 2009 at 4:50 am

    A splint can and does contribute to functional independance (meaningful occupation) by enabling ability in an individual .
    Other professions can splint but with an OT splint you get so much more. The splint is provided in direct consequence to the patients individual characteristics and is related to function and purposeful activity. The OT may provide more than one splint or make unique adaptations to it.
    It is an OTs ability to assess functional disability and very importantly carry out a task analysis which assists in the correct splint design. What an OT does which is unique is that they apply the prescription to meet the medical need but also ensure that a patient can adhere to the regimen to ensure the best outcome. An OT will directly address the difficulties an individual is having in relation to their management and their condition.l For me an OT splint is the first class splint because it truly considers the whole!

  • 5. Ciaran O'Hagan  |  April 6, 2009 at 5:35 am

    Interesting comments. I would be very wary of stating that an OT splint gives much more than another professionals splint. Your comments does not address the issue that a core skill of an OT is to use activity as a treatment/intervention method – where is the activity when prescribing a splint versus e.g. a self-care assessment and intervention.
    I agree that splinting does contribute to functional independance but does so a prosthetic limb – should OT’s train to prescribe such items? As per my previous example of medication enables a person to be more independent – e.g. an person with arthritic knees uses pain-killers to ease pain to enable him/her to walk to the corner shop to buy essential foods, therefore the medication allows them to partake in meaningful occupations independently. Should OT’s train to dispense medication as this improves functional ability and participation in meaningful occupations?

  • 6. geoffrey moriasi  |  October 2, 2009 at 2:28 am

    Am in dire need of splinting knowledge. please can you assist me with llogistcs and techniques required to make different variets of splints. Iwill be very greatiful if you email me. thank you.

  • 7. MARK BOGACKI  |  September 15, 2010 at 9:28 am


  • 8. Rosie Gabriels  |  January 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    medication can never be matched with splinting because one can take medication for arthritic pain but splints gives that part of the body the rest it needs to reduce swelling. therapy is there to reduce the amount of medication people take and Ots do not have to learn to dispense medication because medication and splinting do enirely different functions


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