Forearm & Wrist Splints: Volar/Dorsal & Single Sugar-Tong

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Have you ever broken a bone in your hand, sprained your wrist, or suffered from carpal tunnel syndrome? This lesson includes information about two types of splints that are used to treat these and many other types of wrist and forearm injuries.

Dangers of Cheerleading

Stacey is a 20-year-old college cheerleader. During a recent football game, Stacey was lifted onto the shoulders of one of her teammates. She lost her balance and fell directly onto her right wrist. As she hit the ground, Stacey felt an immense pain and immediately grabbed her wrist.

The team's athletic trainer took Stacey to the ER to get her wrist looked at by a doctor. After her wrist was x-rayed, a doctor informed her that, luckily, she had not broken any bones, but she had sprained her wrist. Then, a doctor put a splint on the top and bottom of her forearm and hand. The doctor explained to Stacey that this was called a volar/dorsal splint and that she should wear this splint for about a week.

Many of us have injured our wrist, most likely from a fall or other type of accident (like Stacey). There are several different types of splints that can be used to treat wrist injuries, and this lesson will discuss two specific types: volar/dorsal splints and single sugar-tong splints.

Volar/Dorsal Splints

Volar/dorsal splints are splints that extend from the middle of the forearm to the distal palmar crease. (If you look at your palm, the crease near the top of your palm is the distal palmar crease). Volar splints are applied to the palm side of the forearm, wrist and hand, while dorsal splints are applied to the top side of the forearm, wrist, and hand. An easy way to remember which is which is to think about the dorsal fin of a dolphin, which is on the top side of its body. It should be noted that these splints may include only the volar part, only the dorsal part, or both.

This is a picture of the volar portion of a volar/dorsal splint.
volar dorsal splint

A volar/dorsal splint is usually applied with the wrist in a slightly extended position, which means that the wrist is bent slightly upward. These types of splints are commonly used for the following types of injuries:

  • Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains and strains, of the wrist and hand
  • Fractures to bones in the hand of the index, middle, and ring fingers
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (pain, numbness, and tingling in the hand due to a pinched nerve in the wrist)
  • Fractures to certain bones in the wrist

Volar/dorsal splints are sometimes preferred over casts and other, more constrictive splints because they allow room for further swelling of the injury. Additionally, this type of splint can usually be removed, which allows the wrist to be periodically moved. This periodic movement of the wrist can help improve functioning of the wrist without impairing the healing process.

Single Sugar-Tong Splint

Single sugar-tong splints are splints that start from the proximal palmar crease (the large crease in the middle of the palm, located below the distal palmar crease), extend all the way down the forearm, wrap around/under the elbow, extend up the back of the forearm, and end at the base of the fingers.

Just like with volar/dorsal splints, the wrist is usually in a slightly extended position when a single sugar-tong splint is applied. This type of splint is mostly used on the following injuries:

  • Fractures to the radius (bone on the thumb side of the forearm)
  • Fractures to the ulna (bone on the pinky side of the forearm)
  • Protection following surgery to the wrist or forearm

In order for fractures of the radius and ulna to heal properly and effectively, a person should not be able to rotate his forearm during the healing process. Because single sugar-tong splints prevent forearm rotation, they are the perfect splint for these types of injuries.

Single sugar-tong splints are commonly used for fractures to the radius and ulna.
bones of forearm

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