By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – One of the concerns that physicians and therapists have about giving patients casts or slings during the recovery phase after an injury is that there may be a loss of function because of reduced usage of the injured body part.

Obviously there are cases where the use of such a device is unavoidable. But now leading neurologists take another look at that theory. They conducted a study which found increases in the size of brain areas that were compensating for the injured side, and decreases in areas that were not being used due to the cast or sling.

The researchers examined 10 right-handed people with an injury of the upper right arm that required a sling for at least 14 days. The entire right arm and hand were restricted to little or no movement during the study period. The study found that amount of gray and white matter in the left side of the brain decreased up to ten percent, while the amount of gray and white matter in the right side of the brain increased in size.

The research concluded an injured arm or leg should be immobilized as short as possible, as long as necessary.

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