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The Effects of Splinting on Thumb Arthritis FREE

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The summary below is from the full report titled “Splint for Base-of-Thumb Osteoarthritis. A Randomized Trial.” It is in the 19 May 2009 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 150, pages 661-669). The authors are F. Rannou, J. Dimet, I. Boutron, G. Baron, F. Fayad, Y. Macé, J. Beaudreuil, P. Richette, P. Ravaud, M. Revel, and S. Poiraudeau.

Ann Intern Med. 2009;150(10):I-34. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-150-10-200905190-00001
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Osteoarthritis (arthritis) is the most common cause of joint pain in middle-age and older persons. It often occurs in large joints, such as the knees and hips, but it can also occur in the hands. Thumb arthritis is fairly common. Thumb osteoarthritis causes pain at the base of the thumb, which limits movement and function. Treatment of thumb arthritis includes drugs and steroid injections for pain. Some experts recommend splinting. Splinting is inexpensive and safe, but no research has yet shown that it helps persons with thumb arthritis.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To see whether splinting improves pain and hand function in people with thumb arthritis.

Who was studied?

101 women and 11 men with thumb arthritis who received care at 2 medical centers in France.

How was the study done?

The researchers randomly assigned half of the participants to receive a custom-made thumb splint, which they were told to wear at night. The other participants received any treatment they needed for their arthritis except for a thumb splint. The researchers then measured pain and hand function and compared the measures in the 2 groups.

What did the researchers find?

Pain and hand function improved more in persons who wore the splint than in those who did not; however, it took more than 1 month to find evidence of these improvements.

What were the limitations of the study?

The researchers could not keep participants from knowing that they were going to receive a splint the way they could if they compared 2 different pills. As a result, the improve-ments the researchers found could have been due to patients' expectations about the splint's effects, rather than the splint itself.

What are the implications of the study?

Splinting is an effective treatment of thumb arthritis, and it might help avoid other treatments, such as drugs and steroid injections, for pain.





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