Arm or leg in a cast : treatment in the event of a fracture or injury

What you should and should not do, when you are treated with a cast.

About the treatment

How the cast is applied depends on the fracture or injury to your arm or leg. There are two methods:

  • Around your entire arm or leg. This is called a full cast.
  • Only on the underside of your arm or leg. This is called a splint.

The doctor will determine which cast you will receive.
There are two types of cast. The type of cast you receive depends on the fracture and the injury:

  • After an accident or surgery, you will usually receive a plaster cast first.
  • Once your arm or leg is no longer swollen, you will usually receive a plastic cast. You may also receive a plastic cast after the removal of stitches

If you break your arm, you may need to rest it in a sling.
A sling is a strap with a loop that hangs around your neck. Your arm hangs in the loop.

Replacing the cast

Your cast will be replaced if you experience pain or if it no longer provides adequate support. This could be the case if, for example:

  • there is too much space, allowing the cast to shift on the limb
  • the cast is broken or torn
  • the plaster has become wet
  • pain increases despite keeping the limb elevated, taking pain relief and resting

Animation of the treatment

Watch this video to learn more about the treatment (video is in Dutch):

Treatment for children

Photo book: Taking your child to the plaster room

After the procedure

Keep your arm or leg elevated

Your arm or leg may retain fluid and swell. Try to keep your arm or leg elevated to minimise swelling.
Keep your hand higher than your elbow:

If you wear a sling, take it off at night:

Keep your foot higher than your knee. Keep your knee higher than your hip:

Advice for at home

General tips

  • Follow the advice of your doctor or casting technician about walking, standing or using your arm or leg.
  • Do not wear jewelry during your recovery, as it may become tight due to swelling in the arm or leg.
  • If you smoke, try to stop during your recovery. Smoking constricts blood vessels, which causes your arm or leg to heal more slowly.
  • Do not remove the cast yourself. Always contact the plaster room or your GP.


A plaster cast must not get wet. Cover the cast and shower as briefly as possible.

Covering the cast

  • Wrap the plaster cast in a towel and then a plastic bag. Seal the bag with tape.
  • You can also use a special shower cover or swimming cover. The casting technician can tell you more about that. Your health insurance does not cover cast covers.


Itching is a common complaint when wearing a cast. Itching usually comes from moisture or sweat between the skin and the cast. Never scratch under the cast with a sharp object such as a knitting needle, as this can damage the skin.
The following things can help with itching:

  • Warm the cast with a hair dryer. Do not set the temperature too high, as you can burn your skin.
  • Cool Talc. This special spray is available from pharmacies or online.
  • The skin can be damaged if small objects get between the cast and the skin. Contact the plaster room if any object gets stuck in the cast.


A haematoma (bruise) often develops around the fracture. Because blood chooses the easiest route, a bruise can shift. If that happens, your hand, fingers, foot or toes may turn blue. This will go away on its own.

Cast too tight

The cast may become tighter around your arm or leg. If this happens, follow the advice under the heading “Keep your arm or leg elevated”.

Cast too loose

There is always a little room to move in the cast. As your fracture heals, the swelling in your arm or leg will subside. As that happens, the cast will become looser. This is normal. Contact the plaster room if you have any questions or if the loose cast is bothering you.


Remember that you are not allowed to drive or ride a bicycle with your arm or leg in a cast. If you choose to do so anyway, you will not be insured.
If you want to travel by plane, discuss it with your doctor or casting technician first. The pressure difference in a plane at high altitudes can cause your hands and feet to swell, making the cast too tight. If possible, you will receive a splint, brace or removable cast before your plane trip.
Strict international rules apply, so be sure to check your airline's rules.


Exercise is important for your recovery. Exercise helps blood flow better and keeps muscles strong.  Do at least five repetitions of the following exercises four to six times a day.

Take it easy, and do not overdo it. Too much exercise or movement can cause your arm or leg to swell.


This exercise is only possible if your elbow is not in the cast.
Straighten and flex the elbow:


Move your shoulder in circles:

Make a fist. Count to three, and then stretch your fingers.


These exercises are only possible if your knee is not in the cast.
Sit down and extend your leg. Count to three and put it down again.


Sit down and raise your leg with your knee bent. Count to three and put your leg back down.


General information

The cast will be removed once your arm or leg has healed. Because your muscles are still weak, you may experience swelling in your hand or foot. This is normal and will go away on its own. Elevate your arm or leg to reduce the swelling.
The cast will be removed at the hospital. When you go to the hospital, you must bring the right equipment.

  • For a broken leg: bring sturdy shoes and crutches.
  • For a broken arm: bring a sling to rest your arm. You will be given a sling at the beginning of your treatment.

When should you call us?

Call the plaster room if you experience one or more of the following complaints:

  • persistent pain or constriction despite keeping the limb elevated, using pain relief and resting;
  • blue, white or very swollen fingers or toes;
  • persistent tingling in fingers or toes;
  • hot or cold fingers or toes;
  • difficulty moving fingers or toes;
  • loose-fitting cast, causing it to shift on the limb;
  • the cast becomes broken, torn or wet;
  • an object becomes stuck in the cast.


If you have any questions after reading this information, contact the plaster room via MijnOLVG or by email. You can also call us on work days.

Plaster room East, P3
+31 20 599 29 60 (on work days from 08:15–16:15)

Plaster room West, route 6
+31 20 510 80 28 (on work days from 08:15–16:15)

If you cannot reach the department for urgent complaints, call the Emergency Department via OLVG’s general phone number.

+31 20 599 91 11

+31 20 510 89 11

Call 112 in life-threatening situations.

The information on this page comes from the department of OLVG. Last modified: