OBJECTIVE: DIP joint OA is common but has few cost-effective, evidence-based interventions. Pain and deformity [radial or ulnar deviation of the joint or loss of full extension (extension lag)] frequently lead to functional and cosmetic issues. We investigated whether splinting the DIP joint would improve pain, function and deformity. 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. RESULTS: The median average pain at baseline was similar in the intervention (6/10) and control joints (5/10). Average pain (primary outcome measure) and worst pain in the intervention joint were significantly lower at 3 months compared with baseline (P = 0.002, P = 0.02). Differences between intervention and control joint average pain reached significance at 6 months (P = 0.049). Extension lag deformity was significantly improved in intervention joints at 3 months and in splinted joints compared with matched contralateral joints (P = 0.016). CONCLUSION: 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. TRIAL REGISTRATION: clinical trials.gov, http://clinicaltrials.gov, NCT01249391.
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distal, interphalangeal, non-pharmacological therapy, osteoarthritis, pain, splint, Aged, Female, Finger Joint, Hand Deformities, Acquired, Humans, Immobilization, Male, Middle Aged, Osteoarthritis, Pain, Pain Measurement, Patient Satisfaction, Range of Motion, Articular, Severity of Illness Index, Single-Blind Method, Splints, Treatment Outcome