Ring Splints for Rheumatoid Arthritis

“Why don’t you try The Arthritis Society?”

Do you remember my experience with a youthful OT when I tried to get splints for some finger deformities? If not, you may want to go read In Which I See an OT and Come up against a Stereotype first. I’ll wait with the update until you’re back.

Oh, and until you’re done with that eye roll. Not to worry. I rolled my eyes, too.

When I published that post, the lovely Annette immediately mentioned The Arthritis Society. They have occupational therapists, as well as physiotherapists and a social worker. Which I’d completely forgotten (because blonde isn’t just a hair colour, but a state of mind).

So I called and made an appointment, because — guess what? — you don’t need a doctor’s referral. You know your body best and if you think you need help, that’s good enough for them!

And I did need help. I have a number of deformities, but my thumbs have been particularly affected by using my camera, worsening as my cameras have improved and gotten somewhat heavier. The pressure exerted on my thumb joints by several hours’ worth of using my camera has gradually exacerbated two deformities in particular. (as always, click to embiggen photos)

It may be too late to prevent the nauseating somewhat extreme effect, but I’d hoped that splints could prevent them from getting worse, as well as deal with the pain in my right thumb. I didn’t have high expectations, though. Remember that the previous OT had said splints wouldn’t help me now that the deformities had happened.

The day of my appointment dawned and I met Amanda Lock, one of the OTs with The Arthritis Society. I explained the situation, mentioned I’d hoped ring splints might be an option, she took a closer look at my thumbs, and then turned to the other corner of her desk and rummaged through a large container with small, individual drawers.

And then she gave me a plastic splint that completely controlled the issue with my right thumb.

In less than five minutes, she had assessed the problem, and given me a solution that only cost $15. She could’ve done it faster, but we spent some time getting acquainted.

Amanda also measured me for ring splints, which were created by Digisplints in Exeter, Ontario, for a bit over $100 each. The splint for the metacarpophalangeal (MP) joint on my left hand needed a bracelet as anchor and therefore cost a bit more.

I’d expected it would take a few weeks to receive them, but they arrived in the mail a couple of days later. They recommended I go back to Amanda to assess whether changes were necessary. After sending the splints to Digisplints for a change, getting them back just as quickly again, and another assessment at The Arthritis Society, I am now the proud owner and very happy user of silver ring splints.

Which proves how important it is to see a health professional who has expertise in your particular condition, something that can be very difficult to find in the community.

The splints do exactly what I’d hoped they would. They prevent my thumb joints from being pushed into positions that aren’t good for them, prevent pain, and enable me to use my camera for hours without ill effects. Well, they do rest on the bony protuberances on my joints, and after several hours these can get a little irritated. This is not the fault of the splints, however, but because my RA has done wonky things to my joints. I’d wear them permanently otherwise. Instead, I wear them when going on a photo adventure. For everyday use, I carry the plastic splint in my purse.

And they are more than just functional. They also look damn good. In fact, most people who’ve seen them think they’re some sort of funky jewelry.

My sister, however, brought me right back down to earth again. She said I looked like The Borg.

Resistance is futile.

The Arthritis Society therapy services are delivered under the Arthritis Rehabilitation and Education Program and available through all Arthritis Society offices across Ontario. They are funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health. They are unfortunately not available in other provinces.


Katharine Shaw said…
This is a great story, Lene. I'm so glad you decided to seek further help, and I think they look like jewellery too!
Anonymous said…
Great idea, I didn't even know ring splints existed. I'm going to see if the Arthritis Foundation here in the US has occupational services like yours does.
AlisonH said…
I had worried about that camera and your hands and am very happy to hear you have these, that they exist, even, and that they help so much.
Joyce said…
So glad they help...and aren't sisters wonderful? :)
Thank you Lene for sharing such an incredible story. I personally think your new splints are awesome! I also saw Osk Jenkins, an OT from The Arthritis Society. She gave me incredible tips and I now have a plastic splint for every finger. I have to be careful not to lose them as they tend to come off when my fingers are not looking like sausages. May I share your post on my January Newsletter? Great post!
Derek said…
Hi Lene!
Derek here from Digisplint... the guy who mades your splints :)
May I share your blog on our Facebook page and website?

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