The Ulna is the bone on the little finger side of the forearm. Ulnar Deviation or Ulnar Drift is a condition where the wrist or fingers shift in the direction of the Ulna. Rheumatoid Arthritis is the most common cause of this condition. RA causes inflammation of the large knuckles (MP joints) along with displacement and possibly rupture of the tendons that cross the MP joints. The wrist reacts to the inflammation and tendon displacement by shifting toward the thumb side of the hand. At the same time, the fingers deviate toward the little finger, or ulnar, side of the hand.
Ulnar Deviation usually occurs over time and its severity is related to how severe your RA is. If you have enlarged MP joints with synovitis you might note a “spongy” feel to the joints. Synovitis is the inflammation of tissues and fluid surrounding the joint. Earlier stages of Ulnar Deviation may include difficulty in fully straightening your fingers at the MP joints and a slight “windswept” look to your fingers. As your condition progresses your grip and pinch strength may be reduced making hand function more difficult over time.
While there is no direct research that shows wearing hand splints or practicing joint protection techniques will prevent or correct deformity, there is research showing that splints do improve hand strength and function. Splinting has also been shown to help reduce the morning stiffness and pain that plagues those with RA.
Joint protection techniques include
- avoiding repetitive strain to the affected joint,
- paying attention to pain levels following a particular activity
- modifying or avoiding the activity as necessary
- the use of adaptive equipment such as an electric can opener to avoid joint strain.
Ulnar Deviation is a significant complication of Rheumatoid Arthritis and you should consult your health care professional to have your condition evaluated. If your doctor or therapist recommends a wrist or finger splint, 3-Point Products has a number of effective products to help you manage your condition. For optimal hand function, you should splint your wrist during the day and overnight.
The Polycentric Hinged Ulnar Deviation Splint is recommended for Ulnar Deviation that can be corrected with mild to moderate force. If you have strongly deviated fingers, the Radial Hinged Ulnar Deviation Splint is indicated. Both of these splints are intended for day use.
The Comforter Splint is the recommended night-time counterpart to the day splints. Resting the wrist and fingers at night in the Comforter Splint can lessen effects of morning stiffness and swelling.
Oval-8 Finger Splints provide stability to weakened joints. This helps reduce stress to the joints.
Author: Julie Belkin