Occupational Therapy

Cure Arthritis Naturally

Beat Arthritis Naturally

Get Instant Access

Toni Golin

Evaluation Splinting

Activities of daily living




Patient education


Occupational therapy provides assistance to persons whose functional level of performance has been affected by physical, psychological, or developmental disabilities. The role of occupational therapy in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is to improve or maintain the patient's maximum level of functioning. The overall goal of the treatment is to minimize the effects of pain, decreased mobility, and decreased endurance on a person's ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL). To achieve this goal, a variety of strategies are employed to:

1. Maintain or increase range of motion (ROM), strength, and endurance in the upper extremity.

2. Correct and prevent the development or progression of hand deformity.

3. Improve functional abilities in ADL.

4. Explore adaptation or alternatives in vocational or avocational interests.

5. Provide patient education, specifically in the area of joint protection and energy conservation.

I. Evaluation. The first step in treatment is the evaluation. Careful observation of the extremity for heat, redness, edema deformity, pain, and stage of disease process helps determine treatment plans and goals. Active and passive ROM of the upper extremity and muscle strength are evaluated by means of goniometry and individual and functional muscle testing. Objective means of measuring strength include the dynamometer, sphygmomanometer, pinch gauge, and computer-assisted equipment. Based on findings, an exercise program can be prescribed. A hand evaluation is performed to assess grasp and prehension patterns, strength, deformities, and pain. Joint and tendon crepitus, joint stability, tendon integrity, and muscle imbalance should be noted. This information is necessary also when a patient's splinting needs are being determined. An ADL evaluation is performed to determine the patient's past and present ADL skills and level of independence. ADL include feeding, writing, dressing, grooming, hygiene, homemaking, and work-related skills as appropriate. Noted in this evaluation is the ease with which a task is accomplished, any pain associated with performing the task, and potentially deforming stresses to the involved joints.

The goals of exercise are to strengthen muscles and increase ROM and endurance, all of which contribute to an improved overall level of functioning. Modalities such as heat, cryotherapy, paraffin, and fluidotherapy are often used to augment treatment. Active, active assisted, and passive ROM, along with resistive exercises, are employed depending on the amount of disease activity present.

A. In the acute stage, when the joints are swollen and inflamed, rest accompanied by splinting is generally indicated. Active and gentle passive ROM is employed to maintain joint mobility. Isometric exercises can be performed. No stretching or resistive exercises are attempted in this phase.

B. In the subacute stage, gentle passive stretch and active isotonic exercises with minimal joint stress can be added to the passive or active ROM exercise program. Their purpose is to regain lost active ROM and improve endurance.

C. In the chronic stage, stretch at the end of ROM, active ROM, and isometric exercises is employed. Patients are encouraged to maintain general conditioning by performing ADL to tolerance.

II. Splinting is frequently used as part of the treatment program.

A. Indications for splinting include the following:

1. Immobilizing painful, inflamed joints.

2. Preventing contractures by maintaining proper joint alignment.

3. Preventing repetitive stress in a joint during activities.

4. Improving function by increasing support and stability.

5. Maintaining surgical correction.

B. Choice of splints. Static splints contain no moving parts and maintain the affected part in the desired position. Dynamic splints assist movement in specific directions by the application of a nearly constant force. They may utilize hinges, springs, or outriggers with elastic tension. When determining the type of splint to be fabricated for a particular patient, it is important to keep in mind that splints can be awkward to wear. Despite some gains, they somewhat limit function. A functional splint that the patient can easily manage is a wiser choice than a more complicated splint that attempts to accomplish many goals at once but is cumbersome and unmanageable for the patient. Also, immobilization of one joint alters the biomechanical forces in adjacent joints, causing increased stress and possible inflammation.

Common problems that may require splinting, the types of splints used, and the rationale are listed in T.┬žble.,..5Z-1.

Types Splints

Table 57-1. Common problems requiring splinting

Volar Cock Wrist Splint
FIG. 57-1. Volar wrist cock-up.

III. Activities of daily living At any stage of disease, the patient can experience functional limitations resulting from pain, decreased ROM, decreased muscle strength, deformity, or fatigue. ADL treatment includes instruction in alternate methods to perform a task and in the use of assistive devices to maintain independence and preserve joints.

Limited ROM in an upper extremity may make it difficult to bring food to the mouth. Weakness and deformity may make it difficult to manipulate utensils and cut food. Adapted utensils with enlarged or extended handles can compensate for decreased ROM and poor grip. Swivel or curved forks and spoons can compensate for lack of supination and wrist radial deviation. An insulated mug allows a patient to use two hands to bring cup to mouth when weakness or poor pinch is a problem. A long straw can eliminate the need to lift a glass from the table. A universal cuff can be used to hold utensils when hand use is severely limited. Rocker knives and Swedish-design knives make cutting foods easier.

IV. Dressing. Limited ROM in both upper and lower extremities may make it difficult to pull clothing over the head or feet. Poor grip and pinch strength and loss of fine prehension skills create difficulty in zippering, buttoning, and pulling up clothing. A dressing stick can help with putting on and taking off a shirt in cases of shoulder involvement and decreased ROM. A sock aid and a long-handled shoehorn can assist with dressing the lower extremity. A zipper pull and Velcro fasteners to replace buttons or the top button at the neck of a shirt are useful.

V. Bathing. Limitations in ambulation and transfer skills can make getting in and out of the bath or shower hazardous. Loss of strength and range in the upper extremity can make it difficult to reach body parts, manage faucets, and shampoo hair. Grab bars and tub or shower seats can aid in safe transfers. Lever-type faucet handles can replace traditional faucets, or tap-turning devices can be placed on existing faucets when hand strength and ROM are limited. A hand-held shower head can be placed on the side of the tub for easy access and can aid in reaching body parts and washing hair.

VI. Homemaking. Reaching into cabinets, holding and opening containers, handling pots and pans, and chopping food are difficult for the person with arthritis. Many labor-saving appliances, such as a food processor, are useful when lightweight and easy to operate. Roller knives or pizza cutters enable food to be cut with less stress placed on joints. A Zim jar opener easily opens tight lids. Items often used should be kept on low shelves, and small, easily managed food containers should be used. Many devices available to improve ADL are manufactured for people with disability. Many are commercially available appliances that, by the nature of their design, are well suited for an arthritic patient. Devices can be fabricated or adapted by the occupational therapist according to the patient's specific problems and needs.

Rheumatoid Hand Splints
FIG. 57-2. Resting hand splint.
The Cardiac Cycle Steps

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Natural Arthritis Pain Remedies

Natural Arthritis Pain Remedies

It's time for a change. Finally A Way to Get Pain Relief for Your Arthritis Without Possibly Risking Your Health in the Process. You may not be aware of this, but taking prescription drugs to get relief for your Arthritis Pain is not the only solution. There are alternative pain relief treatments available.

Get My Free Ebook


  • Boris
    What is the role of occupational therapy in arthritis of lower extremity?
    2 years ago
  • lodovica
    What do occupational therapists do for arthritus?
    5 months ago

Post a comment