NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Wrist working splints, which allow movement of the finger and thumb joints, ease pain considerably for patients with wrist arthritis, Dutch researchers report.

As Dr. Martine M. Veehof told Reuters Health, "This is the first randomized, controlled trial that reveals evidence that wrist working splints are effective in reducing wrist pain."

Veehof, at the University of Twente in Enschede, and colleagues point out that about 75 percent of patients with rheumatoid arthritis have wrist arthritis.

The investigators evaluated the benefit of wrist splinting that allowed enough movement to perform regular activities in 33 patients with wrist arthritis. Seventeen participants were assigned to use a prefabricated wrist working splint, and 16 were included in a control group without splints.

The splinting patients were instructed to use the splint as much as possible during the day.

After 4 weeks, there was a significant decrease of 32 percent in pain scores registered on a visual analogue scale in the treatment group, while scores rose by 17 percent in control subjects, the team reports in the medical journal Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Average grip strength scores increased by 5 percent in the splinting group and fell by 8 percent in the control group. However, these and other differences in functional ability were not significant, statistically speaking.

SOURCE: Arthritis and Rheumatism, December 2008.