The biomechanics of a thumb carpometacarpal immobilization splint: design and fitting

J Hand Ther. 2000 Jul-Sep;13(3):228-35. doi: 10.1016/s0894-1130(00)80006-x.


Splinting for the common osteoarthritis of the carpometacarpal (CMC) joint of the thumb is infrequently described in the literature, but the few splints that are described include one or both adjacent joints. This paper describes the design and biomechanics of a custom-molded thumb CMC immobilization splint that excludes the thumb metacarpophalangeal and wrist joints. The problem of the imbalance of extrinsic extensor/abductor forces against the intrinsic flexor/adductor forces is described. The accompanying weakening of the thumb CMC capsule allows dorsal shifting of the proximal end of the metacarpal, producing pain. The splint described in this paper 1) prevents motion of the first metacarpal in relation to the other metacarpals, 2) prevents tilting (flexion) of the first metacarpal during pinch, and 3) allows unrestricted thumb metacarpal and wrist joint motion. Attention to detail during construction is required for an accurate pattern, precise positioning of the CMC joint during molding, accurate molding around the first metacarpal, and well-distributed pressure. This design may also be used for protection following thumb CMC arthroplasty or thumb CMC sprain or strain and as a base for thumb metacarpophalangeal and/or interphalangeal mobilization splinting.

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Equipment Design
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Joint Dislocations / etiology
  • Metacarpophalangeal Joint*
  • Osteoarthritis / complications
  • Osteoarthritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Osteoarthritis / physiopathology*
  • Osteoarthritis / rehabilitation*
  • Pressure
  • Radiography
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Splints / standards*
  • Thumb*