Finger Joint Support
Ring splints offer a fashionable way to improve finger function and provide joint support.
Remember when you were a kid and after you jammed a finger catching a ball, your dad would tape two fingers together or use a Popsicle stick to keep it straight? That same concept appplies today. Stabilizing finger joints can help align joints, improve function and keep deformities caused by arthritis, loose ligaments or injury from getting worse.
Some people with osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA) may not be able to straighten a finger joint, which can make opening the hand wide enough to grasp an object difficult or make putting on a glove downright impossible. In others with OA or RA, an inflamed tendon may cause a finger to feel locked in a bent position, causing pain and reducing function. Ring splints can be worn on any of the fingers to help these problems and other deformities, such as joints that become “stuck” in a hyperextended position or instability at the knuckles, which lets fingers cross under or over each other.
A study published in the journal Arthritis Care and Research shows that metal ring splints may help people with arthritis regain some function in their fingers. In the study, 17 people who had finger deformities caused by RA volunteered to wear metal splints on their affected finger joints. In the 17 people, 72 silver ring splints were used on joints that were not actively inflamed. Results show that after one year of use, dexterity increased significantly from a score of 71 at the beginning to 85 at one year.
Combining the concepts of therapy and style, silver ring splints can help fingers with damaged joints and provide a benefit that few other medical devices can boast.
“I have a patient who says that people are always coming up and asking her where she gets her ‘cool rings,’” says Melissa Peavey, a Dallas-based occupational therapist and certified hand therapist.
These custom-fitted double-loops of flexible metal are less bulky and more durable than foam or plastic ring splints, so patients are more likely to wear them regularly and benefit from treatment, Peavey explains.
Ring splints most commonly fall into two categories: swan neck splints, which are used to prevent hyperextension of joints beyond the neutral position; and boutonniere splints, which help straighten a joint that cannot be actively extended.
Ring splints are available in plastic, if you want to try them temporarily, as well as silver and gold, for more long-term use. If you plan on using them for years, you can have them crafted to look even more like jewelry by adding decorative bands and precious or semi-precious stones.
According to Cynthia Garris, an occupational therapist and inventor of silver ring splints, joint instability is caused by changes in the alignment of ligaments due to disease or joint destruction. This changes the mechanics of the joint and creates a loss of support and decrease in power. Ring splints stabilize the finger and control the movement of the joint in its normal range.
“Swelling and pain are precursors to joint instability, so if you notice you’re starting to have these symptoms in your hands, tell your doctor you’d like to have an occupational therapist or certified hand therapist evaluate your hands and advise you about the benefits of a ring splint,” says Garris. “Once a joint becomes fused splints are no longer useful.” Garris says that one splint can last more than 10 years.
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