Hands are a very important part of everyday life – from daily activities like brushing our teeth and eating, to work activities and sports. When your hands are not able to function properly, a specialized approach is needed to return you to the highest level of functionality possible.
Our team of occupational therapists has received advanced training and certifications in treating conditions that affect the hand and upper extremity. One of the many tools in their treatment toolbox is the creation and implementation of custom orthoses, otherwise known as hand splints.
About Custom Hand Orthosis
Commonly referred to as a brace or splint, hand orthoses are made specifically for you and your medical needs by your hand therapist. Splints are made of moldable thermoplastic materials and are made to fit your hand, wrist, elbow, fingers, or a combination of the four areas.
A hand splint can serve many purposes, but the primary reason for splinting is most often the immobilization and protection of the hand. When the hand is immobilized, there is a much higher potential for healing. It also speeds up the healing process by forcing the affected area to rest.
Depending on your injury or condition, the splint can provide minimal, moderate, or maximum resistance. While your body heals, your splint can be adjusted to accommodate changes in swelling or motion, which will lead to a more successful outcome.
Different Types of Custom Splints
There are three categories of splints, each with their own goal:
Static splints – Static splints have no moving parts. The purpose of a static splint is to rest, protect, position, and immobilize the body part. Sometimes these static splints are remolded over and over to increase motion and decrease tightness.
Dynamic splints – Dynamic splints encourage the movement of the involved stiff joints and tissues while correcting, positioning, or aligning them. Dynamic splints have moving parts that stretch joints or allow controlled exercises while wearing the splint.
Static progressive splints – Static progressive splints apply both concepts of the previous splints, applying an adjustable stretch to a tight joint. The primary goal of these splints is to improve the range of motion of a stiff joint. As the stretching of the joint becomes easier to tolerate, the amount of force applied is adjusted.
Who Needs A Custom Splint?
Common diagnoses that may require a custom splint include:
Arthritis and Joint Pain
Tendonitis (Tennis Elbow and Trigger Finger)
Neuritis (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
Specialized Hand Surgery
What About Over-The-Counter Splints?
Different injuries and different procedures require different splint designs on the road to recovery. There are essentially two types of splints: pre-fabricated (over-the-counter) and custom. While prefabricated splints can be very helpful in some circumstances, a poorly fitting splint might delay healing or create more problems.
Unlike off-the-shelf splints, custom splints are customized to specifically meet your unique needs, which creates better results and outcomes. Our hand therapists take a number of factors into consideration before determining what type of splint to make or what material to use. They are fitted to the patient allowing accommodation to variations in anatomy, alignment of joints, and swelling. From patients that need to use a wheelchair comfortably to those that want their splint to fit inside their sports gloves, our therapists work to meet the needs of each and every patient.
How Long Do I Have To Wear A Splint?
As injuries start to feel better, we are often asked the question: How long do I have to wear my splint? The answer depends on a number of factors, from the type of injury to its severity. Bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles all heal at different rates. It’s the therapist’s job to assess the different tissues involved in an injury or surgery and prescribe the correct length of time for the splint to be worn.
Removing a splint too early can cause re-injury. Wearing a splint too long can cause weakness, stiffness, or even a worsening of your pain. It is very important to make sure you and your therapist are on the same page to prevent any complications from occurring.