Can Ring Splints Help Arthritis Pain?

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  • Splints in Ancient History

    Splints in Ancient History

    Healers have used splints to stabilize injured limbs for thousands of years. Several mummies from ancient Egypt were found to have splinted broken limbs, presumably as a result from building the Egyptian pyramids.

    Hippocrates, the Greek physician-philosopher, mentioned splinting broken limbs several times in one of his medical texts. And today, splints are still used to stabilize and protect injured or arthritic body parts.

  • What Is Arthritis?

    What Is Arthritis?

    The Greek word “arthritis” means “joint inflammation.” The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). A chronic arthritis of the joint cartilage, OA affects roughly 20 million Americans. Over time, OA may cause joint destruction and disability.

    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease. It’s the second most common type of arthritis, affecting 1.3 million Americans. RA attacks the synovial and surrounding tissues of the joints, causing pain, swelling, deformity, and disability. RA is a systemic disease. It may also attack soft tissues such as the heart, lungs, and veins.

  • Splints Can Help Arthritic Joints

    Splints Can Help Arthritic Joints

    Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis can make your hands and fingers swollen, stiff, and painful. They can seriously limit the range of motion in your hands and wrists.

    Splints—specifically ring splints—can be used to support and protect the joints of the thumb and fingers. They can also relieve pain by modifying how much you can bend and curl your fingers.

    Joint deformity is common in both types of arthritis. Ring splints may help keep joints aligned and may even slow the progress of deformity.

     

  • How Arthritis Deforms the Fingers

    How Arthritis Deforms the Fingers

    Osteoarthritis damages cartilage, a smooth, tough, plastic-like tissue that cushions the joints prevent bone on bone contact. Eventually with the loss of cartilage, the bones of the joint grind together, causing more pain and damage. Also, bony bumps called Heberden’s nodes may develop on the knuckles.

    Rheumatoid arthritis attacks the synovial capsule, the cartilage and the ligaments around the joint. The synovial lining of the joint thickens. Cartilage breaks down and ligaments attaching the joint to the muscle are stretched out and weakened. RA patients may also develop hard bumps over or near the joint.

  • RA Targets the Hands

    RA Targets the Hands

    RA almost always attacks the small joints of the hands and feet.  When pressure is placed on the hands (such as the action of opening a jar), the wrist and knuckle joints become stressed. This may aggravate the disease or further damage to the joints. 

    Flares—periods when the disease is active—reoccur in the same joints. The tissues surrounding the knuckles swell, and then may go back to normal. Over time, cartilage is broken down and the ligaments stretch out and weaken.

  • Deformities Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Deformities Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis

    People who have RA may possibly suffer from finger deformities. While this may happen slowly, or over many years, the process really depends on the severity of the disease.

    Specific finger deformities associated with RA are:

    • swan-neck, boutonniere finger, or z-shaped thumb: the joints of the knuckles slip above or below each other
    • subluxation: the wrist or thumb slips down and partially dislocates
    • ulnar drift: the fingers curve sharply together toward the small finger
  • Ring Splints Can Help

    Ring Splints Can Help

    Ring splints, which fit the fingers and thumb, are made of tough, thin thermoplastic or high quality silver. They look much like the decorative rings they’re named for.

    The oval-8 splint is made of two joined plastic or silver ovals that slip over the finger with the joint resting on top of the knuckle. The splint gently prevents the finger from bending, which keeps the knuckles from slipping. It also helps relieve pain caused by movement. Two ring splints joined side-by-side may help prevent ulnar drift.

  • Ring Splints May Increase Strength and Dexterity

    Ring Splints May Increase Strength and Dexterity

    Ring splints may help prevent deformities by keeping the fingers in their natural positions. Ring splints also help control the motion of the joint through its normal range.

    In a study by Southampton University, RA patients wore silver ring splints day and night for 18 months on fingers that were showing signs of deformity or that were already somewhat deformed. The study showed that the ring splints had increased the RA patient's grip strength and hand dexterity.

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