Cast Claustrophobia

Posted , 7 users are following.

I have broken fibula on my leg, near the ankle and I've torn a possible ligament in my ankle (to be confirmed by x ray).

I was put in a plaster cast but I found it incredibly unbearable, I felt trapped, I had an overwhelming desire to cut the cast off, experienced insomnia and suffered panic attacks - I don't normally have any problems with mental health.

A physiotherapist told me this was a recognised issue called 'cast claustrophobia'. So rather than putting me in a new cast now I have a removable walking cast which is much more tolerable. Although I'm not allowed to weight bare.

The consultant was not sympathetic to my reaction and told my that my ligament is likely to require surgery that will require going back in a cast, whether I like it or not as removable walking cast does not provide adequate support for the ankle.

Are there any options, or does anyone have any suggestions on how to proceed? Wearing a cast is not going to be sustainable, I fear it will do more harm than good when I inevitably fidget incessantly before eventually cutting it off.


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12 Replies

  • Posted

    I've never heard of cast claustrophobia but your "consultant" doesn't sound like he believes mental and physical issues need to be addressed equally.  He seems to be getting ahead of himself and causing you anxiety about something that may not be an issue.  First things first.  What does the xray show about the ligament?  Is it torn or not?  If not then no surgery is needed.  If it is then the consultant or a different one need to give you options that address both the physical and mental aspects for "your" recovery.  I broke my 5th metatarsal almost a year ago and heard from many on this site.  I was amazed about how the same condition was treated differently by different doctors.  I was in a NWB cast for 4 weeks but did not have to go into a walking cast for another 4 weeks as so many others did.  I went into a removable walking cast.  It was very supportive of my ankle and I had to wear it day and night and was gradually allowed over the weeks to put weight on my foot.   I don't know what your walking cast is like but mine was from my toes to my knee.  It was made from a very hard plastic shaped to keep my foot and leg aligned in an L shape.  It was fully padded and open in the front to get on.  The padding then was then crossed over the front of my leg and a seperate hard plastic L shaped front cover was fitted over the padding and velcro strapped on tightly over my foot, ankle, and leg.  With those 3 straps in place my foot and leg weren't going anywhere.  In addition there was a large button "pump" that would pump air into the padding to make everything even tighter.  I have to say that I couldn't sleep the first night because the boot hurt my leg so much I wanted to call the doctor and get my cast back!  I ended up sleeping in the boot but without pumping it up and without the hard plastic front shield and without the ankle strap pulled so tightly.  Best of luck to you that a cast can be avoided. Remember there are also medications for anxiety, pain, sleep etc and other non drug methods to help too.  Deep breathing, hypnosis, acupressure, visualization.  

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    • Posted

      I will find out in a few hours if the ligament is torn. I agree, mental aspects need to be knowledge and dealt with, I will bring this up if I'm met with the same sort of response as last time. I was thinking last night that If I had an allergy to the plaster they would not thing twice about alternatives.

      I am being treated by the National health service (UK), generally there is little choice in the way treatment options, you are likely to be pushed toward the cheapest option and mental health issues are frequently ignored.

      Seems there are many different types of non-plaster casts that are removable from a good old Google.

      Thanks for the reply! 

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  • Posted

    I can totally relate to your feelings, I had false nails put on and by the time she had put four on I was panicking and she had to take them off, weird I know but hey we are all different and your Dr does need to try and understand, I suffer with an absolutely irrational fear of ops so I'm hopefully dealing with a fractured hip and pelvis, no one can understand that either, I can however understand that taking a cast on and off will not allow the bones to heal as well as it should but the choice is totally yours, when you haven't got the boot on you need to try and keep the foot as still as possible.

    Could you try wearing long skirts so you can't see it

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    • Posted

      Greetingsi, I have seen your "name" on prior posts and I agree with you so much about "irrational" fears.  I am told they are irrational because there isn't any "real" reason to have the fear.  Too bad my brain doesn't understand that I have no reason to fear driving over high bridges or narrow winding roads in the mountains.  We all have to do the best that we can with our problems/fears.  Casts, operations, high open spaces, false nails, whatever it might be I truely hope we all manage to heal safely both physically and mentally. 

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    • Posted

      Apprently it is a reasonably well known condition, although not common, it is very rare to effect legs, it often affects immobilised arms. I know the feeling tho, I don't even wear watches, rings etc.... I can't stand them. 

      I would love to wear a dress but unfortunatley I'm a man and I don't think I could pull off the look. :P

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    • Posted

      I hope you are feeling better now.

      I fractured my left ankle in November 2016. I have cracking and fracture on the distal end of both fibula and tibia. In addition totally torn anterior ligament and partially the posterior ligament.

      My leg is in cast since then. It's been almost 3 months now.

      I was supposed to have the cast for 2 months only but just days before removal I fell down and fractured my right femur.

      I had surgery in December.

      Just 2 weeks back my cast was changed and I have a walking cast now and I am putting full weight on the fractured ankle as my right leg has the fractured femur and no weight on this leg.

      I know you are going through though time but you will be OK.

      Orthopedic injuries take time to heal and there is nothing you can do about it. Once you get better and be able to walk just invest on a good amount of time on physical.

      Take care

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  • Posted

    Had a cast on for 3 hours and this weird panic crept up my throat . I tried to cut it off but only had regular scissors . It was a complete panic attack . Got tin snips it did not work cutting the fiberglass  . I bought a boot on amazon and will try to find a urgent care to take off cast . I know it’s crazy but it’s overwhelming - this take it off urge !!!  Ugh 
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    • Posted

      Not the same I know but I had false nails put on and before she'd done two I was trying to get them off, nut's I know but I felt claustrophobic and completely panicked, I can totally understand your feelings

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  • Posted

    I know this was quite a while ago, but I feel your pain! I suffer with cast claustrophobia, too, and am currently in a fibreglass cast from armpit to palm, after extensive ligament surgery, including a graft, on my elbow, four weeks ago.

    After two weeks in a back slab, I was put into the cast I'm wearing now, and admit to crying the whole time it was being applied - through pain, fear, frustration and panic. They were most understanding in the plaster room and gave me a clam-shell cast; as soon as the cast was dry, they cut it down both sides, before wrapping it in a slightly rubbery bandage to keep it in place. This helps a lot - I know if I get into a panic, I can remove this bandage and could, theoretically, remove the cast which means of course I don't actually want to! I hate wearing a cast, but can just about tolerate it now, and instead have to deal with how to prop the arm at night to allow me to sleep, how to dress, wash, cook etc with only one arm - all of which are more practical issues than dealing with that fear so great that I actually want to rip my arm off.

    Counting down the days now till the next stage - 6 weeks in a brace.

    Presumably, they could do this 'clam-shell' cast for legs too...

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  • Posted

    when i fractured my ankle the 1st time i was splinted (cast cut in half and wrapped with bandages).

    the splint was unconfortable and painful, i had to remove it and caused more damage because fell from the crutches on the broken ankle.

    i never had to wear a cast before so i was really afraid it could be as unconfortable as the splint was.

    but the cast was so much better and my fears disappeared.

    i later refractured the same ankle, now i'm in a long plaster toe to groin. my leg feels great, and i greatly prefer this over the cam boot.

    this to say that maybe the panic is also caused by a cast that isn't very well made. fiber cast dries quickly, the plaster can be molded much better.

    so if you think the cast could be unconfortable i suggest to ask for a plaster one. the molding process in my case was more painful than with the fiber but much more effective.

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