Using finger splints for osteoarthritis has been shown to give effective, long term pain relief. This is excellent news for many people.
Osteoarthritis in the hand and fingers is incredibly common but relatively little research is done compared to the knee and hip. This seems a little odd as it is estimated about 70% of people over the age of 55 have hand osteoarthritis.
Hand and finger osteoarthritis is very debilitating as it causes deformity as well as pain. This means it becomes mechanically difficult to carry out simple tasks such as doing up your buttons. The hands often become weak as well so simple every day tasks such as opening a jar becomes a battle.
This is something I suffer from. I have mild OA in the base of my thumb and I know I always have to ask a family member to open them. It becomes a bit embarrassing when your 13 year old daughter can easily open something you have spent 5 minutes wrestling with!
This is why this research is of such interest to me. Currently I wear a Mueller Thumb Stabilizer for tasks I know aggravate my OA. I do not wear it all the time as I know this will weaken the muscles, tendons and ligaments around my thumb which will make things worse in the long term. However I do not wear it at night. But according to the researchers at Oxford University who did this research on finger splints for osteoarthritis I should be!
This was all the trialists had to do:
Methods. A prospective, radiologist-blinded, non-randomized, internally controlled trial of custom splinting of the DIP joint was carried out. Twenty-six subjects with painful, deforming DIP joint hand OA gave written, informed consent. One intervention joint and one control joint were nominated. A custom gutter splint was worn nightly for 3 months on the intervention joint, with clinical and radiological assessment at baseline, 3 and 6 months. Differences in the change were compared by the Wilcoxon signed rank test.
This was the results:
Results. The median average pain at baseline was similar in the intervention and control joints. Average pain and worst pain in the intervention joint were significantly lower at 3 months compared with baseline. Differences between intervention and control joint average pain reached significance at 6 months. Extension lag deformity was significantly improved in intervention joints at 3 months and in splinted joints compared with matched contralateral joints.
Conclusions. Short-term night-time DIP joint splinting is a safe, simple treatment modality that reduces DIP joint pain and improves extension of the digit, and does not appear to give rise to non-compliance, increased stiffness or joint restriction.
Which Finger Splints for Osteoarthritis Should You Buy?
You want to splint your fingers straight or even bent back a little if you have OA in the end finger joint as shown in the picture.
The cheapest place I have found to buy these finger splints for osteoarthritis is Amazon.
You can also get wrist and thumb splints and I see no reason why these will not work in the same way as the finger ones. I am doubtful any night time bracing for other joints will work as you will do not get the same degree of deformity. I believe it is the correcting of the deformity which improves the mechanics which, in turn, improves the pain.
Add some exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles around the joint to the finger splints for osteoarthritis and you should get significant improvement to your function and reduce your pain substantially.
Let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below.
Links to get Wrist, Thumb, Hand and Finger Splints for Osteoarthritis
Finger Splints (fits all sizes and fingers)
Thumb Splints (fits just about anyone as it velcos on around the thumb and wrist. Will fit either left or right thumb)
Hand Splints (this is for a right hand but left are also available)
Wrist Splints (this is for a pair of medium but you can easily find all the sizes and just a left or right one if only one hand is affected)