Fiberglass cast claustrophobia!!! Distal radius fracture.

Posted , 9 users are following.

Hi Everyone,

I fell down a flight of stairs at my friends house and broke my wrist just under 2 weeks ago. I went to A&E and had my wrist manipulated into place under sedation and a fiberglass cast applied. The next day I had surgery and 2 k-wires inserted and had a plaster cast.

The first night in hospital, I woke up around 3am feeling really stuffy in the room, I then proceeded to have some shortness of breath and the shakes. I noticed my cast felt very snug on my arm but thought maybe the shock of the break was only just hitting me. I'd been at a friends house so I was in a hospital 2 hours away from home. I ended up sitting awake for a few hours trying to deep breath and calm myself before calling my mum at 5am and getting another hours sleep.

Once I had surgery and the plaster cast fitted, even though it was the size of a baby elephants leg, I never had any problems. The plaster was only half way round my arm so I could feel the underneath of my forearm through the padding.

Cut to now and I had my cast changed yesterday as the plaster one was loose. I've been fitted with another fiberglass one and while it was initially a welcome change because of the lightness, last night I experienced the exact same feelings as my first night in hospital which I now realise is panic attacks from some sort of cast claustrophobia. In the night the cast becomes ever so slightly tighter which must trigger it off.

Has anyone else experienced this? I know the techniques for calming the attacks which allow for broken sleep but Is it possible that I could get my cast chaged back to the plaster? Can a small window be cut in the fiberglass (by the hospital) to allow skin contact?

Honestly, how this cast is making me feel is worse than the actual injury! I dont think I can bear it for 4 weeks, especially as I know the plaster cast totally illiminated this feeling :-(

Any advice would be appreciated, or if you'd just like to moan/vent along with me, come join the party!

1 like, 20 replies

20 Replies

  • Posted

    I'm sure you can ring or go back to the plaster room. They are much more understanding than consultants etc. I didn't have the same as you whilst in the cast but it did get tight due to the swelling which I still have post removal of cast. I had plate and screws rather than k wires ( not my choice asunder anaesthetic ) would have preferred k wire. I should have gone back to the plaster room but stupidly didn't. Fortunately for me they removed it after 2 weeks ( backslab for 2 weeks post op )as they said with plates early mobolisation is recommended. My problem is I can't mobilise. It just won't move and I'm getting so down about it!!! Feeling really low :-(. It's such a long process. Hope you manage to get your cast sorted as that feeling of panic is horrible and you have enough to contend with x

    • Posted

      Thanks for your reply, I'm so sorry you're also feeling crappy, i've been reading a lot about the after rehabilitation to get movement back and I can only imagine how frustrating it must be, you'll get there though, keep on keeping on and sending you lots of positive thoughts to get that wrist back in action! Just focus on a tiny improvement and celebrate it when it comes, that one little teeny movement will symbol the start!

      The problem i'm having is I live 2 hours away from the hospital i'm being treated at. Because I was away from home when it happened and they wanted to operate the next day, all my follow up appointments arent local to me so i'm hoping they will sort it at my local A&E. I really just want some sort of split near the top of my arm before I lose the plot. Deep breathing like i'm going into labour to try and stay sane! Never realised how complicated mentally and physically a break would be! X


    • Posted

      Hi Vicky, last April I crashed my cycle at 40mph snapping my hand off (distal radius) it was apparently it was the worst A&E had seen. I also had a plate fitted held in place by 3 screws up my arm side and 7 in my hand. Initially I was told by the consultant that I would have permanent loss of movement and stiffness , 6 months before I would be able to resume cycling. The surgeon was more upbeat telling me 12 weeks before I would be able to ride a bike. Post op. the next morning I could cross my fingers, I even managed to dress myself and fasten my shoe laces.6 weeks later after my 2nd physio session I was given the all clear to resume cycling , just short 30mile rides at first but about 12 weeks after my break I was back to 100 mile rides. The last appointment with my surgeon I was told not to expect arthritis, I have 98% to 99% movement , press ups are no problem and not a hint of any stiffness whatsoever. Have you seen a physio yet? You do need to work very hard to regain movement , initially I had next to none! Couldn't brush my teeth or comb my hair. I remember telling my boss that if I didn't want to ride my bike  I would happily never move my hand again! Try moving yor hand when in the bath or shower it's a little easier, get hold and move it, it hurts but it's got to be done. For 3 months I slept with my arm elevated to reduce swelling and aid healing. Loss of movement is very daunting and you have to persevere to regain it , movement won't return on its own unfortunately.

    • Posted

      Thanks Paul. What an inspiration you are. Not sure if you've made me feel inadequate or to have hope!! The latter I would like to believe. I'm 6 weeks post op today. Fingers move ok but unable to move thumb very well and this is numb in the inside and has been since injury. Consultants aware but don't want to know. Hand thumb and fingers still very swollen, despite hot/cold and massage from fingers to elbow. I admit I still carry the wrist/armlike a new born baby as it doesn't move and is like a tree stump, but I am conscious of this and try not to but it's so hard. Unable to hold anything to be able to brush hair etc, and movement up/down tiny movement. Palm up/down isn't happening and I'm pushing through the pain barrier it just seems stuck solid. I know we are all different in our recovery rates but I am feeling very low and down that progress doesn't seem to be happening. I shall discuss with physio today and possibly try to get some extra private sessions of physio in to motivate me.

      Again I applaud you for your speedy recovery. Send me some of your good vibes. Thanks Vicky

    • Posted

      Did your physio get you to make a fist or similar get hold of your hand and move it firmly on your first visit? I think 3 weeks after my opp. He did this the pain was intense but fantastic. I sort of embrace pain lots of cycling I think ! It resulted in greater movement. The excersiexersise I did to force movement were addictively painful and I couldn't stop until I could bare the pain no more to the extent that they left me 100% drained due to the effort and pain.My wife would not be in the same room! The titanium plate in your arm is very strong indeed and you can not damage it so don't be afraid of that, I literally used all of my strength to force movement. Are you squashing a ball in your hand? I had a GMB stress relief pig to squish! I am not making light of the pain I know it is terrible and it feels like your wrist could snap again but really you have got to be persistent as early movement is the key.

    • Posted

      Just back from the physio. Boy oh boy the pain is intense isn't it? But it did feel a bit better afterwards. Yes he did the fist thing you spoke about and finger bending/pushing but says all my muscles, tendons and ligaments are very tight so need to do little and often after icing first to refuce swelling/pain/feeling! He's told me a least 6 weeks of every 2-3 hrs exercising religiously. With more exercises for the turning palm up and down etc. Won't work on strength until more movement. Feeling a bit more optimistic and know I have to be hard on myself. It's definitely a pain, no gain approach

    • Posted

      I am pleased it feels better Vicky. I was told doing washing up is good exercise also, the warmth and movement. It hurts though. I think my cast was on for two weeks then physio at 3 so I lost very little strength and never needed any work on this. It seems like you are a little behind however don't loose heart as it will continue to improve and movement will return little by little.

  • Posted

    Thought i'd update this just incase someone comes across this post at a later date...

    Claustrophobic feelings continued as did the panic attacks so went to the hospital, had another x-ray and the doctor said I could either have a small piece cut from the top of the cast or (and he said this was against his advice) the fiberglass cast removed and replaced with a backslab which could result in the fracture not healing correctly and needing further surgery.

    Went with the idea of a small piece cut out to see if that helped and was sent to the plaster room. 

    In the plaster room, I was met by one of those people who is an absolute credit to the NHS. He instantly validated my feelings and told me he had delt with this before and that it was a very real issue and not to worry. He trimmed some of the cast from around my fingers giving me more room and making that area a lot more comfortable and then told me he was going to split the cast down the middle and secure it with velcro straps.

    Holy mother, the moment there was a slight crack in that cast the releif was instant and I finally felt able to breath again. He said this is what they do to a cast if you're going to be flying so it was perfectly secure and everything should be kept in place nicely. The split just allows for any expanding and swelling without that tightness.

    I was absolutley petrified of having my k-wires removed in 4 weeks but after this experience, I can honestly say that will feel a walk in the park! Anyone who goes through this, I feel for you but it can be sorted! Also, not sure if he was lying, but my plaster room saviour also said the wire removal will be absolutley fine. I'm going to choose to believe him for my own sanity!

    If you find youself with cast claustrophobia, get yourself back to the hospital. If it starts at night and you have to wait until the morning, deep breath in, hold for the count of 4 and exhale, keep repeating. Apply something cool to the skin at the top of your cast and I highly reccomend youtubing some anxiety guided meditations. They really will help until the morning.

  • Posted

    Fantastic news regarding the cast. I did reply and said to go to the plaster room but it seemed to have gone missing!!!

    At least you will hopefully, have a good night sleep now. The k wire removal will be a walk in the park after what you've felt like over the past few days.

    • Posted

      Hey Vicky, your plaster room message must have reached me telepathically! razz

      Yeah those wires I think I 

    • Posted

      whoops, pressed send without finishing, typing with my left hand and using a mouse is still a challenge!

      Those wires I think I can handle but then again, in 4 weeks time I might be back asking for moral support over those too! X

  • Posted

    Hi Lisa

    I had exactly the same as you. It's terrible isn't it? I'm quite a level headed person, and the claustrophobia came out of nowhere. I actually cut lumps off my cast at 2am. Talk to them, a nurse said to me that there are medications that really help during the night when it's really bad. It's when you're hot and have nothing sense to think about isn't it? Good luck, just know you're not alone x

    • Posted

      Hey Richard, yep, terrible certainly is one way of putting it!! Never expected to feel like that, honestly one of the worst experiences of my life and like you, thought I was pretty level headed! Thankfully they have split my cast down the middle and the releif was instant, I could have kissed the guy in the plaster room haha! I was ready to do a DIY job on it myself.

      Obviousley totally sucks you had to experience it too, but it really does help knowing i'm not the only one it started to push to insanity! x

    • Posted

      That's fantastic news ??. Just so you know, my Son who's 18 had K wires (mine was plated) and he's the biggest baby I've ever known. He said he barely felt a thing when the wires came out, so don't give that a second thought. Just be careful on those stairs! Best of luck with it x

    • Posted

      This makes me feel so much better about the barbarically pulling pins from my bone without knocking me out!! haha! Thanks for the support, much appreciated! x 

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