Some people with arthritis wear ring splints across finger joints to help reduce pain and inflammation. These splints promote proper joint alignment, which may help prevent deformity.
Doctors use splints to stabilize and protect injured body parts or body parts affected by arthritis.
This article details the health impact of arthritis and how ring splints can help reduce symptoms.
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.
Oval-8 splints comprise two plastic or silver ovals that slip over your finger, with the joint of the splint resting on top of your knuckle. The splint gently prevents your stabilized finger from bending and your knuckles from slipping. It also reportedly helps relieve pain caused by movement.
Ring splints can also relieve pain by modifying how much you can bend and curl your fingers.
Arthritis can make your hands and fingers swollen, stiff, and painful. They can seriously limit the range of motion in your hands and wrists.
You can use ring splints to support and protect the joints of your thumb and fingers. Some ring splints may stop a person’s finger from bending upward or downward, while others may lessen lateral movement.
How ring splints can help
Ring splints may help prevent changes in your fingers’ structure by keeping them in their natural positions. Ring splints also help control the motion of your joint through its typical range.
Patients reported improvements specifically in:
- household chores
- grip strength
- opening jars
- lifting groceries
The word “arthritis” comes from Greek root words that mean joint inflammation. There are over 100 types of arthritis, though some are more common than others.
The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis (OA). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it affects an estimated
OA occurs when the cartilage in your joints begins to break down. It’s known as the “wear and tear” type of arthritis, as it tends to develop with age and worsen over time.
OA causes difficulty in using the affected joints. Over time, affected joints can become severely immobile and painful.
Inflammatory arthritis is a term that groups together various forms of arthritis that occur as a result of overactive levels of inflammation in the body. This includes:
- rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
- psoriatic arthritis
- ankylosing spondylitis
After OA, RA is the second most common type of arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation estimates that it affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans.
RA is an inflammatory type of arthritis. It affects the tissues around your joints, which can cause pain, swelling, and damage.
Inflammatory arthritis can lead to pain and swelling in the affected joints. Over time, people with inflammatory arthritis may experience decreased joint mobility.
Inflammatory arthritis can also affect the tissues around your joints. Left untreated, many types of inflammatory arthritis can affect your whole body, including soft tissues such as the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
Different types of arthritis can affect the fingers in different ways.
OA damages cartilage. Cartilage is a smooth, tough, plastic-like tissue that cushions your joints to prevent bone-on-bone contact.
The loss of cartilage eventually results in the bones of your joint grinding together, which can cause more pain and damage. Bony bumps called Heberden’s nodes may develop on the joints at the end of your fingers.
RA causes synovitis by attacking the connective tissue — called the synovium — lining the capsule surrounding your affected joint or joints. This causes the synovial lining to enlarge. The joint capsule, cartilage, and ligaments around your joint may also inflame.
Over time, the cartilage around your affected joint can break down. The ligaments stabilizing your joints may stretch and weaken. RA patients might also develop hard bumps over or near the joint.
Certain forms of inflammatory arthritis, such as RA and psoriatic arthritis, often affect the small joints of the hands and feet. Stress to the wrist and knuckle joints may aggravate the disease or damage the joints.
Flares — periods when the disease is active — tend to reoccur in the same joints. For example, the tissues surrounding your knuckles can swell, and then the swelling can fade during periods of remission before returning to another flare.
People who have RA or psoriatic arthritis sometimes experience changes in the structure of their fingers. This may happen slowly over many years. The process depends on the severity of the disease.
Specific finger deformities associated with RA or psoriatic arthritis include:
- Swan-neck deformity: In a swan-neck deformity, the finger’s middle joint hyperextends toward the palm, forming a shallow V-shape in the first two bones of the finger. The joint furthest from the palm then flexes, pointing the fingertip downward.
- Boutonniere finger: This is the opposite of a swan-neck deformity. Boutonniere finger causes the finger to extend upward from the knuckle, down at the central joint, and up once more from the furthest joint from the palm.
- Subluxation: This occurs when the wrist or thumb slips down and partially dislocates.
- Ulnar drift: Ulnar drift is when the fingers curve sharply together toward the small finger.
Ring splints are firm supports that fit over a finger or thumb. Ring splints can help reduce pain and inflammation from arthritic conditions and may slow structural changes to the fingers.