Mallet Finger Injury – Two Years Later

When I sought medical attention for a mallet finger injury two years ago, what I learned was that I shouldn’t expect the affected finger ever to be exactly the same again. While that may be technically true, I was able to recover well enough that only very slight evidence of the injury remains, evidence that would only be detectable under very close examination. I’m convinced that the reason I recovered so well is that I took the initiative to build my treatment around my own design and method for making a custom splint.

The generic splint prescribed for me was too big and very difficult to keep fitted. It made the finger protrude enough past normal length that the finger was entirely unusable and the use of the entire hand was adversely affected.

To make a more effective, comfortable splint, I used a modeling material called InstaMorph, which can be heated to a temperature of 150° farenheit in water to allow it to become moldable. I then wrapped the warm pliable material around my finger and molded it to immobilize the affected joint only, and to support the fingertip while leaving it exposed, allowing me to use it for typing, etc. Of course it took a few tries, but once it felt right, I was able to wear it for the duration of the recommended splinted recovery time, both day and night, about 8 weeks. If my finger felt loose in the splint or I felt that it had accumulated too much dirt during the period, I simply discarded it and made another using more InstaMorph. I think I may have gone through 3 or 4 generations.

The goal of the design for the fingertip support point of the splint is that the joint be stretched slightly more backward than for a normal straight resting position for the joint. But it’s not necessary to bend the joint backwards far enough to make it uncomfortable. It’s possible to achieve this goal by realigning the fingertip support point while the InstaMorph is still somewhat pliable. That means removing the splint during the formation process and changing the shape slightly before it cools enough to become entirely rigid. Removing the splint before it becomes rigid during the formation process also ensures that the splint isn’t molded tightly enough to make it difficult to remove or to constrict the finger enough to adversely affect blood flow.

It’s important not to allow the affected joint to bend even once during the eight weeks, and wearing the splint, although removing it was easy, helped me achieve that goal. Along with exercises which consisted only of spreading and backward arching of all the fingers on the affected hand to the maximum possible position, the treatment has proved quite effective. After the eight weeks had passed, there was some residual feeling of weakness in the joint that lasted for a couple more months. However, during that time, I simply reapplied the splint temporarily whenever I became aware of the weak sensation in the joint, or when I considered that my activities might be increasing the likelihood of re-injury. The orthopedic surgeon who treated me was impressed enough to ask my permission to photograph the splint. The included photos that I took myself illustrate the overall design concept for the homemade splint.




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